Lucy Shepherd Explorer

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Lucy Shepherd (Explorer & Filmmaker)

On today’s Podcast, we have Lucy Shepherd. Lucy is is a British Explorer at the forefront of modern exploration from the Arctic to the rainforest. She has pursued all sorts of expeditions around the world.

She has just returned from the Amazon where she and her incredible team of Amerindians crossed the entire Kanuku mountains from East to West. This pioneering expedition was over 250 miles, took 50 days and was full of epic tales as you will hear on the Podcast today. This protected, uncharted and arduous land put her through their paces.

Today on the podcast, we talk about this expedition in the Kanuku Mountains

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Transcript of our Conversation

Lucy Shepherd Explorer

[00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to season two of the modern adventurer podcast. I’m your host, John Horsfalll. I’m an adventurer and photographer. And each week I’ll be talking with a new guest about their latest adventure from around the world for all the new listeners and subscribers who have joined. I speak to adventurers and explorers who do remarkable things in the field of exploration and endurance.

This is an immersive podcast. So this season, their story is cut to music and cinematic. As we immerse ourselves into the heart of their adventure. My next guest is a British Explorer and filmmaker who is at the forefront of modern exploration from the Arctic to the rainforest. She has pursued all sorts of expeditions around the world.

On today’s podcast. We talk particularly about the rainforest and the hostile environment that she had to encounter on her latest expedition in the. Our story is out there and to tell it [00:01:00] firsthand, I am delighted to introduce Lucy, she to the podcast. Thank you very much for having me. Well, it’s an absolute pleasure to get you back on.

We had you on episode 18 talking about your, one of your latest expeditions and today you. Fresh fresh back from your, uh, other expedition out in south America, which we will talk, talk about, uh, later on in the podcast. But, um, before for people who haven’t listened to that episode or who don’t know you, who are you, what do you do?

And how did you get into this sort of life of adventures? Yeah. So who am I? I’m Lucy. She, yeah, I would best describe myself as an Explorer. Um, I think it’s, uh, we don’t hear that term very much anymore. The what term Explorer, but I most definitely think we should use it unapologetically. Now. I think we can all be explorers in our own, right.

Um, for me personally, um, I use the term Explorer because well, my most recent [00:02:00] expeditions, it’s the best way to describe, um, and explain what I do. So I’ve been doing expeditions for over 10 years now. I started when I was 18. Uh, I was lucky enough to be picked, to be one of 10, to go off to the Arctic of Salba for 10, whole weeks.

So we were completely trained up. I had to learn the first taste of fundraising, which is anyone who does adventures knows that it’s pretty much the hardest. About doing anything like this it’s the fundraising, but that was my introduction to, that was my introduction to the wilds. Um, after that 10 week exhibition, it was just one of those feelings that that’s the best version of myself.

And how can I just keep doing this? Um, I just loved every aspect of it, really. Um, the challenge, the camaraderie with the team, the being sort of so connected to the environment. And, uh, yeah, from then I just made it my mission to try and get on as many expeditions as I could started hanging around the raw geographical society, uh, politely pestering people.

Um, and it worked, it started sort of getting more skills, high attitude, mountaineering, and things like that. And [00:03:00] I’ve been so professional Explorer for a number of years now, but I’ve gone full time Explorer, uh, since, since, uh, last mid last year. Um, and it’s looking like I can stay that way, which is, which is amazing.

And that really is, I suppose, a chartered dream when I was 18. Um, thinking that maybe with that one day I could. Lucy she Explorer and like be full time. And so now also actually say it’s pretty, pretty great. And it’s been a bit full circle actually, because yeah, I’ve recently got back from, um, south America, but also I was just guiding, um, myself in Alba.

Um, so where it all began. Um, so 11 years later I was guiding myself and we had an interesting encounter with the polar bear, but everything was fine, but it’s, uh, it’s great to sort of see things everything’s clicking. Looking together and, uh, yeah. Looking forward to sharing more of Guyana and south America, uh, on the podcast today.

Well, I’m sure, uh, people have a lot of questions which hopefully will answer today. [00:04:00] So, I mean, like when we spoke last, it was your trip in the Amazon and you were talking about going out there again, mm-hmm , which is a story you’re going to tell today. So in terms of the planning for this trip, how. For people who don’t know you or how or anything about sort of expedition planning, how did this sort of come about?

This expedition. Yeah. Goodness. I mean, the expedition planning with this was huge. Um, it started, so my previous expedition, um, uh, in the Amazon that I did in 2020, I finished that trip and I thought there was, it was clear that there was so much left to explore in that area. Uh, it’s a very unknown area, the KCU mountains.

Um, there’s not much about it online, half of it’s protected. Um, so that’s when you Google it, that’s what you’ll find most of all. Um, but in terms of people actually going into the ground into the deep jungle people, don’t do it. Um, it’s replaced, filled with myths and legends. It’s got a lot of, uh, a lot of fear surrounding [00:05:00] it as well.

Um, the sort of, uh, fair. Knowledge of UN uncontacted tribes and things like that, whether or whether or not that’s true, uh, mythical creatures that live in the jungle, all that sort of thing. And, uh, the only maps that the, that we have access to are 50 years old, but they’re very unreliable. So basically a, a Canadian 50 years ago flew over.

It was a pilot, took some pictures and then just did some drawings from those pictures. So as you can imagine, When you’re looking down at a canopy with using a camera, that’s 50 years old, it wasn’t accurate. Um, so I looked at these maps and I finished this expedition and talked to kind of like a mentor, Ian Craddick, this guy who ex special forces lived out in guy.

Finished this last expedition in 2020 and said, look, I really wanna do something big. And he sort of just looked at me and said, we, you you’re gonna have to cross the whole thing now, aren’t you meaning cross the whole KCU mountains and the whole, technically a whole KCU mountains goes further than it looks like it does on the map starts [00:06:00] from the Skiba river.

So the mighty qui river close to Sur and border, and it goes all the way to the Brazilian border. Um, so all the. West to the Brazilian border. And it’s a huge, huge distance. I mean, it’s like, it, it spans, I mean, we ended up walking over 400 kilometers, but it in as the Crow flies, it’s about 200, 250 kilometers.

And, um, Everyone thought this wasn’t gonna be a PO, it wasn’t gonna be possible. They thought it wasn’t it. Wasn’t not going to be, um, viable at all. I was sitting here in a hotel in Georgetown in guy, you know, each these, uh, the, the, the beeping from outside as you get in all of these south American, um, hot countries of humidity.

And, uh, I just thought, well, that’s got to be it. This, the impossible is gonna be made possible. And so I went home, um, Ian and I started planning. We started planning this trip, but just a couple months later, he tragically and sadly and suddenly, um, passed away, uh, which was, [00:07:00] which was big blow, obviously lost a friend, but also lost a sort of this key, this wealth of knowledge.

He had so many contacts in guy that was gonna make the planning so much easier. Uh, he had government contacts. You, it’s not like you can just go to the. The canoe mountains or most places actually, and just walk, um, you have to get permissions, you have to get permits, uh, all sorts from, from the likes of tribal chiefs who technically own the area to the, the protected area committee.

So it’s just endless. I mean, these countries love paperwork. They love paperwork and permits. And so when he passed away, it was kind of like, what is. Is it gonna be viable? Is it just too much to ask for me to organize it? Luckily, one of my good friends and also Ian’s good friend as well, um, uh, and is Anderson.

Who’s a good friend, Danish Danish guy. Uh, he said, he’ll come on board and he’ll, we’ll do it in sort of Ian’s name and we’ll work together to make this possible. Um, which was incredible. So it was a two, two man band. It was myself Anders who [00:08:00] organized this and it took months. It took, took, I mean, we probably spent full time.

On it for about six months. But as, as everything, as it got closer and closer and closer, it was just, it was a tidal wave of organization and everything went, everything was thrown at us. We had, um, had to deal with a lot of authorities. We had to deal with, um, last minute changes we had to deal with COVID of course, um, so much preparation from, so we had two resupplies that we had to organize.

There was only two options to have resupply that were economical. And that were the two major rivers that we would cross. So we would have, we, we had to plan the end as we’d have a. Um, come from a boat. If couple of days, journey from the nearest village and drop off a barrel full of food, then leave, leave them at coordinates and let us know the coordinates.

And then we would, we would find it there. So there’s all that sort of thing is plus the rescue, um, organizing. Sort of a rough route. Um, yeah, it, the, the list went on and [00:09:00] on and on, it did feel like Anders and I just constantly had a tennis racket and problems that were, the tennis ball were thrown our way.

We just kept having to battering battering. And it was, it was, it’s a fun experience. Uh, if you’ve been on expeditions before, you know, that nothing ever goes to plan and it’s, you have to be so reactive and you just have to think, okay, how are we gonna sort this? How are you gonna sort this once you’re there, there’s no choice you’re gonna do it.

Um, but yeah, it. It was a mammoth, uh, task. And I’m very proud to have even got to the start line, to be honest, because your expedition before was also up in around guy in Guyana. Yeah. So in the Amazon, so surely with that knowledge and that wealth of experience that surely helped with the planning of this trip, did it.

100%. So previously I’d done a shorter route through the Kaku from south to north. And what that had done is it had almost given me a bit of, uh, I guess, credit in the bank for the [00:10:00] authorities, for the governments there and also for the indigenous Indian people to know that. What we were doing, you know, I could do it and I could lead a group there.

Um, it also introduced me to so many contexts of, uh, my team. So what the expedition we were proposing most recently was so mammoth that it wasn’t like I could just take anyone that was strangers. Um, luckily cuz I knew people, I had trust, I knew their capabilities. So I took people who were, you know, my friends already from previous expeditions, um, which, which was a.

Gave you a head start, but yeah, no, I don’t think I could have just gone without any, uh, past experience within the country doing expeditions. What was the sort of moment, because you obviously, as you said, with all the sort of funding with all the, uh, sort of paperwork, visas, uh, government officials that you had sort of put in was sort of a moment where it sort of all came together and you’re like, right.

We’re. Not until the boat dropped us off [00:11:00] at the insertion point because we had right up until we were even dropped off every, I think we might come to that in a little bit, but right up until we were dropped off, we were having things going wrong, where it could have been the end of the expedition and, you know, uh, the expedition itself, anything could happen on any step.

So, uh, I don’t think I really realized that this. Possible until finally got out of the jungle safe, um, all those, you know, months later and realized, okay, okay, now I can breathe. And as I can breathe aside of, uh, relief, because although I was in the jungle, constantly, Anders was in this, in civilization, on the edge.

Um, a few days contact away with a sat phone, hoping nothing. , nothing came his way. Well, let’s, uh, let’s jump into the story and let’s head over to the Kaku mountains. And so the idea was probably to fly from the UK over there. [00:12:00] And it sounds like there was all sorts of challenges that erupted along the way.

Yeah. So in late September, it was time to finally leave. Uh, I, I flew from the UK. Uh, Anders was already out there. He’d been out there organizing things for a couple weeks. Um, you land in Georgetown, Georgetown’s a very vibrant city. It’s, um, quite, uh, quite Caribbean esque. Um, there’s those people from all over really?

So there’s Caribbean people. There’s. So Brazilian tech people. Um, there’s a lot of, there’s some Dutch people from Surinam and, um, it’s very, very multicultural. Um, and it’s a very fun city, but you arrive late at night and the, uh, the airport’s full with people trying to offer you taxis as usual and, um, jump in a taxi and finally meet and as, and there’s.

There’s just so much excitement in the air that, that what we’ve been planning for months is starting to starting to happen. And after a few [00:13:00] days of getting sort of last minute supplies, we had to arrange all the resupply for food. Um, we were finally meeting, meeting the team in Letham. So Letham is a very.

Letham is our last point of civilization. Really? Uh, it’s a, it’s a couple hours journey from, from Georgetown and Letham, it’s a town, but it’s a very basic town. There is kind of wild west, like it’s, uh, no, no time at roads and just dusty roads and very, very hot. And, um, on the side of Letham you look out at the KCU mountains and you can see just the vastness of them and you realize that you’re gonna cross them.

And it’s funny when you look at jungle, um, from a. Just greenery, but you know that inside it’s so D dense and deep and damp, and it’s just so unknown. Um, it feels it, you start to feel a little bit overwhelmed as you, as you look at the scale of what you’re about to, about to go into, but meeting the team and meeting my friends of, uh, [00:14:00] Chinese and, um, and, uh, Lionel, uh, some of the, some of the team for the first time for, in a couple of years was so exciting.

And it was funny actually, because I hear from them, I start talking to them about the trip and they tell me that their family and their friends from their village. Had said, why are you doing this? Why are you going on this expedition? Um, and cuz they thought that they would never return. Um, and so I felt very honored and uh, trust trusted that these guys were putting their faith in me.

Um, and Anders to sort of make this expedition a, a, a success, but it really shows you that they all had the adventure gene. And they wanted to be a part of this, which was quite an honor, really. Um, and they’re such, such great guys, but was, it was great for them to all meet. Um, we all looked at the maps, these maps.

So I said they’re 50 years old, but because of the distance is so vast, um, lying them out, um, on the floor to have a look at our rough route. So we, we have a root, um, Knowing where we’re gonna [00:15:00] meet the resupply. But the problem with the jungle is that you don’t know how long it’s gonna take. You can look at resupply one, you can look at resupply two, but it might take three weeks.

It might take four weeks. You don’t know what’s in there. Um, the terrain is just, you have to be feet in the ground and you kind of have to adjust it every day. Um, you can’t plan the route more than that. Um, but it was cool. We laid out all the maps, there was 12 maps. So it went, it was about, uh, 15 meters of maps that we were looking at, um, which quite daunting, um, as we sat there looking at them.

Um, but after a lot of admin, I mean, there’s so much admin and all these expeditions, uh, it was finally time to depart for our insertion. And to get to our interaction point. It wasn’t easy and nothing, nothing is easy. So it would take, uh, it took a day and a day and a half and a four by four. Um, no roads just sort of getting through, um, the Savannah.

So, uh, the KKI mountains are surrounded by the [00:16:00] hot Savannah. Um, so we drove through there and then we reached our, uh, reached the rainforest and would jump into a boat. And this boat was a two and a half day journey. And this is where the adventure really began. Because the boat, the boats that we were using, these two boats, they’re long, thin aluminion, um, aluminion boats and they’re very, very old.

They’ve got dense, they’re full of dense and they, you basically, you, you pack them full of all your kits. You, you have your life jackets. It’s very hot. You it’s very, very flat on the water at this point. Um, and you jump in and you start going, making your way, um, into the jungle. And as you are, we’ve got a very small motor of 15.

Horse power motor that we are using to, to go upstream. Uh, it’s very hot on the water if you’ve ever been in the rainforest. Uh, it’s a beautiful place to be when you are, when you are on rivers, but it’s so, so hot. Uh, and I always think that when you’re on the river, you see the pristine [00:17:00] side of the jungle.

Um, and it’s the place that it is the idea. When we think of a jungle, we think of, uh, full of life and we think of, uh, colorful, uh, wildlife jumping, uh, fish jumping outta the water wildlife, and the trees, things like that, which you do get on the water. But as we’re sitting in this boat, as it’s going along, you look over to either side and you look into the, into the canopy and it’s just black and, you know, In a couple days after the boat ride, you’re gonna be stepping off and you’re gonna be cutting trail into there.

It’s a very, very different story, um, to actually be walking rather than, um, on the river. And, um, the river that we were going on is the mighty Skiba river. And it’s called mighty because it’s known for having a lot of rapids. So our insertion point would be at the point where the rapids just got so ridiculous, a place called king Williams pools and.

It’s here where other than portaging the boats, um, a little bit on the way it was, [00:18:00] they couldn’t go any further than this. So this would be our start point, but as we were, um, just sort a day away from this. We start hitting some rapids and they’re, they’re fine. A bit of white water. Uh, we Portage the boat a little bit and then you get back in the boat.

So portaging, if anyone doesn’t know means you drag the boat, it’s pretty hard work either by walking in the river or by getting it on land and pulling it. but, um, on one occasion we see some rapids and I’m in the boat, the first boat going ahead and we, it doesn’t look too bad, but as we approach, um, they look much worse or they become much worse.

And it’s obvious that they’re worse than we thought. And the cap, we have two, we have a boat captain and then sort of basically an assistant. And for some reason, the assistant was driving this boat at this point. And the engine stalls just at the wrong moment, but we’ve committed at this point. We’ve committed.

So we have to keep going. So the engine starts. We don’t have the speed that we had. We are only using a 15 horsepower engine, which is absolutely [00:19:00] nothing. Um, we’ve got the wrong, wrong engine on, on this occasion and we take on the rapids and it is much bigger. It was all hidden from the water. It’s much bigger rapids.

And we thought the boat flies up into the air. Uh, and doesn’t we get air, but it doesn’t clear the rapid. And, um, we are basically stuck. The front of the boat is, is clear the back of the boat. We’ve got white water coming. Um, there’s a well pour on the left there’s rocks on the left. Uh, white water is hitting the side.

Um, and we, we, we are stuck and we’re trying to use our weight. We’re trying to rock it. We’ve got an, a, we’re trying to paddle. Because if we flipped the left, then it’s a real serious scenario. This is, these are some big rapids. And, um, we, we could get either pined or the rock, or we could just get sucked in and, and stuck.

these spokes are not meant to capsize S worth mentioning that they don’t capsize. It’s just the thing that they, they do. They don’t do. And after a few seconds, well, actually I say seconds, it was a couple minutes. Um, felt like eternity. Um, I, I was filming part of this [00:20:00] actually, and I realized that.

Something was really seriously gonna go wrong. Put the camera in. Um, my dry bag, thankfully. And after just a moment, the water caught it. We got catapulted out. We got flipped into the water. We were tumbling down. Luckily we got flipped onto the right side. If we’d gone the left, it would’ve been, would’ve been.

Seriously bad. Uh, we were tumbling underneath. We were trying to hold each other’s hands. Uh, we couldn’t, it was just too powerful. The water I was holding onto, uh, a Camry dry bag, which gave me some seven buoyancy. Um, and after a few seconds of just sort of trying to grasp the air, uh, we popped out the other side miracle.

We popped out the other side, uh, and, uh, no one was injured. Amazing. And the other boat came to rescue us. They came to rescue us, pop us, popped us on the rock in the middle of the river, and then went to start to retrieve, um, to retrieve the boat, retrieve the engine that had gone, uh, and also bits and pieces that had had that were in the boat [00:21:00] that were floating.

And you know what it was, it was crazy because if we had lost even one thing, uh, one bag of that, everything we have, you know, we don’t take anything unnecessary. So everything. Something important, the sat food, any food, the first aid kit, um, maps, we’d lost one thing that would’ve been the expedition over with, cuz we’re such a small expedition really?

There, it. And as, and I, with a very small amount of sponsor, well sponsorship compared to the, what the grands grandness inside of the actual expedition. Um, and so it was a reminder that we are very much in the mercy at the mercy of the, of the jungle. And as I stood on that rock, um, some of my teammates were quite shaken up.

Actually they’re pretty, pretty, um, shocked to have, have experienced that. I mean, these, these guys have amazing swimmers, but I. They knew the remoteness of what we were about to do and any it’s just us, it’s just us out there. And, um, we, yeah, we had [00:22:00] to really respect it. Um, and the water especially is, is, is a, is a ful ful place.

But yeah, we, yeah, no one was hurt. We started portaging the boat until we couldn’t anymore. And then we were finally, finally dropped off. We said, wave goodbye to, and isn’t the boat guys. Um, and then I stood there. I stood there finally in the damp and wetness of under the canopy. Um, on one side I had four guys, so my, my tea, we were a team of five.

Um, and I had four, four guys wearing our 35 40 kilograms R sex. And they’re looking at me to sort of navigate their way, um, our way through the jungle. And on the other side, I’ve just got this wall of forest and trees and, uh, it’s a very. Jungles can vary very much in their denseness, but what we experienced for those first month or so was just, um, just so many such dense.

And when I say dense forest, I mean, um, [00:23:00] lots of small trees, lots of binds, lots of, um, lots of roots. So it’s not just like, you can use your machete to just cut once and then you step forward, you have to cut from all. Uh, and it’s it’s anything, but walking is what we realized. So we started, started heading, heading into the jungle and I remembered very clearly why it take, so it takes a few weeks for your body to adjust for you to get used to being in the jungle.

Um, and I remembered that from before, but it’s everyone says it’s hot. Everyone says it’s sweaty. It certainly is. Um, but you don’t, what you don’t realize is just how slow it is. It. It takes a lot of, I think, mental resilience to just realize the pace that you’re going at is slow. Um, and you just, you’re streaming with sweat, especially to start with, as your body starting to adjust, but, um, yeah, you are crawling, so you’re constantly having to crawl under, um, into the floor and the forest floor it’s you can never [00:24:00] see the forest floor really.

It’s a bit, I, I describe it a bit, like being in a compost heap. So, you know, compost bin, um, is very squishy and it kind of smells that rotten smell. Um, and it’s, we. So it is, you’re constantly squish, squishing down, and then you’re crawling on the floor underneath, uh, underneath trees. And, but also you are always having to keep so alert.

Um, there are obviously snakes that you’re always watching out for, but scorpions that you’re watching out for and spiky trees, uh, we’re constantly having to warn each other about spiky trees because they’re needle like trees everywhere that just. That just splinter you in PSU that you spend the whole night getting out otherwise.

Um, and yeah, it was, it was slow progress for those first few weeks. Um, every night I would lie in my hammock and I would just stare up into the darkness and you’ve got the, how the monkeys in the, in the distance. Um, you’ve got the frogs, making their, [00:25:00] their big bellowing noise. Um, and I would. Think how long am I gonna be here?

Because I tried to maintain some sort of control, but there was no point in trying to do that. There was no point in trying to think, well, maybe we’re gonna average two K a day from now on. Maybe that means we’ll get to our resupply in five weeks and then yeah. Oh gosh. Will I be home for Christmas? I try.

This would all be going round in my head at night, but until I actually realized, there’s no point in doing that, I have to embrace the unknown. That’s why I’m here, then that wasn’t until then I could actually get some, get some peace from it. . Was there a particular moment on that trip because you’ve sort of spoken about the sort of hardship that you’ve been going through.

And I imagine four listeners thinking. Cool. And I suppose, is there a sort of particular moment that you can remember on the adventure where you sort of sit back and sort of found this amazing moment along the way? Yeah, absolutely. There are a couple moments of that. It’s for such a long trip and I’m thank, I’m thankful that there were, there was, um, in the middle [00:26:00] of the, in the trip, the rainforest really changed and it became, I sort of describe it like, uh, you know, tomb, Raider rainforest that.

Big rocks with lines coming down. Um, and actually the, some of the light, some of the sunlight could actually shine their rays down onto the floor. So you could actually feel the heat of the sun, which previously we hadn’t had. We’d just been in the dark the whole time. Um, it felt very much like how you would draw a jungle as a child.

And it was a few few times, but we’d have a break and we’d be next to these huge rocks. I’d sort of be climbing the vines and things like that. And you, in a way you felt safe. You’re never safe in the younger, but, but because the sun, you feel felt the sun on your skin, you felt a little bit, uh, of like relief.

And there was moments like that where we were just sort of playing really, which was, was just so much fun and other times, whereas we got towards the mountainous section, um, We would be, we would have such, it was a slog to climb up mountains in the jungle. Uh, you try and grab hold of trees or rocks, but [00:27:00] because the, the, the ground is so wet, anything just falls apart.

You have to be very careful when you climb up and, uh, it just falls out of your hand, but we’d get to the top and we’d occasionally have like a tiny view through the trees, um, and be able to see where we’d come from and just see these rolling, uh, forest. Uh, filled mountains. And, uh, one of my team, Vivian, he just goes up and he sees this and he goes, oh boy, you know, I never ever believed that I would be this high up in the KCU mountains, but here we are.

And there was that sense of sense of achievement that we would get, um, that was towards the end as well, where it’s like, well, maybe, maybe this is within reach now, which was, uh, was amazing. Cause we had so many times where it was close call and it could have ended so differently and tragically. I really felt like we got away with a lot, uh, a lot so much could have happened.

Da daily challenges we’ve we faced. Everything is a challenge. I mean, even, even just, um, walking is hard [00:28:00] because let’s, let me try and explain what it’s like to, um, to go through when you’ll, you’ll get to a very thick undergrowth bit and you’ll start moving. You’ll realize your feet. Aren’t actually on the ground.

You are on the some large Bush, you’re some last tree, um, walking. Walking on lots of different branches that if one of these breaks, you’re just gonna break a leg or anything like that, that would’ve meant the end of an expedition, the expedition cuz you breaking leg there only so much you can, you can do with that.

But also, uh, I mentioned snakes briefly, the Bush master snakes they’re meant to be quite rare. They’re definitely not rare in these, in this area. Um, Bush master snakes are, they can grow up to 10, um, 10. Well, no, they can grow up to 12 feet in length. We would see them in about 10. Um, huge and very, very wide as well, but their camouflage is just, um, so good that they’ll be on the canopy floor and you just won’t be able to see them or, or to the untrained eye.

It’s very difficult to see them. And that’s the biggest threat that the team, if you ask [00:29:00] them what they were scared of, they would say the Bush master snakes, they’ve got. In the am Indian culture, they’re feared hugely. Um, they, they, they whistle these snakes whistles. So they have a two-one whistle, uh, when they hear you coming they’ll whistle and they’ll tell each other, um, in the mountain they’ll often live in the mountains in the Rocky areas and we would be passing and the whistles would just start and they would be everywhere and they’d be very close as well.

And, um, so they were very much around, but then they also tend to get quite aggressive. So they’re seen as quite aggressive snakes and they’ll defend their territory. And of course, this is a place where humans, uh, it’s, it’s been, it’s said that humans have never really, uh, been before. So it’s very unlikely that these Bush master snakes have ever experienced humans.

So they’re scared. Um, they’re chasing, they they’re meant to chase you as. You’re travel in pairs. Um, at night they have been known to curl underneath your hammock, um, for your warmth. And then they strike when you least expect it. So they, they [00:30:00] haven’t got the best reputation. Uh, they also have, um, a little pin, like one of their, their bone comes out of their tail.

And, um, they have been known that once they’ve bitten you, they jump on top of you and then whip you with their venomous, uh, bone bony tail, which. Lovely. Um, but we, we had quite a few moments where we’d be stepping one moment in particular. I’d describe is, uh, so I was, I was going third. Vivian was cutting trail to the cutting trail with the machete.

Um, cutting, cutting as much as she could, then it was Lionel and Lionel and I were chatting and we would, you always go in a single file, of course. Um, and you leave a couple meters, um, Distance between you, because if one person has sees a snake or there are wasps or bees, which there always are, uh, then it gives you time to make a decision of which way you’re gonna go.

And, uh, Lionel and I are chatting, you know, oh, well, what are you most afraid of in the jungle? And Lionel says, oh, venomous snakes. Um, [00:31:00] because you can’t, you just can’t see them. A lot of the other things, the Jaguars, um, even the spiders you’ll, you’ll see them cause they move. But the been mistakes, you just, you do not see them soon as he has said that.

Vivian just yells screams. He almost falls down. He drops his bows and arrow bone arrow and his machete. And he luckily falls in the right direction, but there was a snake and the snake went for him. He had. Gone into sort of survival mode and dropped everything next to it. And he just get shouted Bush master, and we start having to run back where we come, come from, cuz they, they strike and they can jump quite, quite big distance.

And it was just okay, heart, heart, throbbing moment. This was the first time. So this was a, a couple weeks in the first time. We’d actually. Seen one as we were moving when we were moving. So we hadn’t seen it. Um, first and, um, the problem was that he dropped his, his tools right next to it, and we needed to get these tools.

We couldn’t just leave them. Um, so we had to make a [00:32:00] decision. Um, this snake was being very aggressive towards, towards us and towards, within. And we had it, his partner one. So they have, they have this partner and this partner, we couldn’t see it, but it was in the bushes. So they, they like to live in, uh, uh, lots of, um, like bushy thickness.

And you could hear it in the distance. Uh, or close, close by actually. And, um, it was whistling away and we had to, uh, use our bone arrow to get it away, um, to get VI get Vivian’s tools, but it was so, oh, Vivian was sweating. He was. He was really shaken up because, um, yeah, it, so almost got him. Um, I was there ready.

I, I thought he’d been bitten to start with, so cuz I went, are you okay? And he went, no, no, I’m not. So I was like ready about to start, start cutting trip down trees to get the, get signal for the satphone and get the first aid kit out and things like that. But. Yeah, luckily, luckily he was okay. And unfortunately he had quite a few, quite a few close, [00:33:00] close calls with, um, with Bushmaster snakes.

He, I don’t think him, he’s not a fan of them. That’s just saying that , he’s playing place. They’ve, they’ve toyed with his life a little bit too much. Um, Bush master snakes. Wow. God and geez. What are sort of moments sort of have, and, you know, you had that throughout your entire. Your entire journey. And so we’re sort of, um, moving along to sort of towards the end, you’d been almost 50 days out in the jungle, you know, having to sort of deal with this on a daily basis.

How, when you were sort of getting towards the end, what were the sort of feelings like within the group? And where were you? Yeah, so as we got towards the end, we didn’t, we never sort of counted our kind of our chicken, so to speak until we were really, really close to the end because every step is something can happen.

Um, and you know, we’re, we’re also fighting things like skin infection, things like that. And it’s. It does become a point where every step is painful. Uh, you can [00:34:00] manage it as much as you want, but when you don’t have access to just rest and drying out things, um, it’s just, it takes its toll. So every, every minute seems like a long time um, but the last, I would say probably where we got to the last night, when we knew the next day providing nothing, no accidents happened, then we would get to the.

Um, that was a big moment because , we all, we we’d run out of food again. Um, cuz again, you don’t only take as much as you as much as you can possibly, but um, we’re all laying in our hams that night you go to bed quite early in the jungle. Um, in fact, you go to bed very early in the jungle because it gets dark very quickly.

It’s suddenly it gets dark rapidly. Um, and as soon as it gets dark, you should really be in your hammer getting off the ground from the snakes and the things you can’t see. Um, and it’s a safety thing really. In the KKI mountains, especially towards the end of this whole trip. It was very cold. Um, surprisingly very cold at night, and we’d all be, we’d all be sleeping at hammocks on this last night.

And I heard one of, one of the team [00:35:00] get up and start stoking the fire and that he was just standing there next fire. And I thought, well, I’ll get up. Cause I’m, I’m freezing. And it, we don’t actually need sleep tonight. And then it ended up that a whole team got off and we all just spent the whole night around the.

Um, kind of this buzz of excitement and euphoria that we were actually gonna do this, and this was actually gonna happen. I think we, we stayed until around 4:00 AM and then we couldn’t couldn’t wait any longer. We just decided let’s just, let’s just go. Let’s just, let’s just make our move and start making our way to the end.

And, uh, it was a little, there was a little bit of, um, hesitation as we started because we’d created this such family. Uh, just unusual family dynamic here I am. This the one that you might see is the odd one out, but, uh, in a way on, on some of them, they were, um, looking after me, but in a way I was looking after them and being an, almost like a, a mother hen to some of the younger ones.

And we had a funny relationship, an interesting relationship. I respected them. They would look [00:36:00] after me, but then. Look after them and tell them the decision of what we, what we were doing each day and where we were going and things like that. So it was very special. And I think they started to realize the way , I’ve got used to this routine so much, and this jungle the way of life.

Um, because of course, these guys spend a lot of time in the jungle, but they don’t. They, the max time that any of them had spent in the jungle, um, in one go was 12 days and that wasn’t even moving every single. So they live in the edges of the jungle and go in for different reasons, um, uh, frequently, but this was moving every single day, um, for 50 days, uh, in just nonstop, no rest.

And I think they got used to it and they’ve got used to just how we were doing things and the idea of going back into being with their families and, uh, having the uncertainty of the world again. Um, yeah, it gave him quite hesitation sadness, I think a little bit just as it did to me. What was gonna come.

Yes. I couldn’t wait to have the relief [00:37:00] and be in safety, but yeah. I mean, anyone who does these sorts of things, you do it because you love it and it’s addictive and, uh, not to have it again was quite a scary scenario. Yeah. And so what was the sort of view looking out and when, when it all sort of came to an end.

So we, as we approached the end, uh, just our. Part really was. Um, so we got to the top of this, the high point of, of the day, and we could finally see the Savanna for the first time. So this, we were finally out of the jungle, we could also see left. Um, so that was actually where we, where we started. We could see it again.

Um, cuz we’d, we’d gone backwards in a way. And uh, yeah, that was the first sign of civilization. We. Um, so what the end, really? And then after that, we just started making our way down for a few hours to, to the Savanna out of the jungle. And it was coming out of the Savannah out of, out into the Savanna. You felt that heat onto you and the [00:38:00] crunchiness of the grass.

And rather than this wet and darkness and humidity, and yeah, it just felt, just felt such a, such a relief really. Wow God, what an amazing adventure and God do. I mean, do you keep in touch with the four guys that you went on this trip with you still in contact? I do. Yeah. So some not all of them are easy to contact.

Some of them are don’t have any technology or, um, don’t even know how to, I mean, some of them are, we call them bushmen, bushmen. Um, so they, you give them a phone and they have no idea, no idea what to do with it, but. Couple of the others. Um, Vivian and Mike younger, younger guys. Yeah. I’m in touch with them regularly.

Um, so they’ve installed wifi in their, in their villages. It’s a government scheme. Um, so I can actually talk to them. And I’m actually, I was speaking with Vivian recently because we are collaborating with doing a. A virtual talk together for something, um, which is, which is great to give him, give him that [00:39:00] opportunity as well.

So, yeah. Yeah. I, I’m definitely gonna be back doing things with them. I think, um, I think we’ve got some adventures up after leave. And how did the 50 year old maps compared to the real thing they were, they were pretty accurate on the mountainous areas because it kind of makes sense, cuz if you, you could see the, the contours and things like that, but.

Low low down when we were in swamp, like areas and trying to know where the creeks were. They just really weren’t accurate. Um, I think there’s gonna be, I, I expect within the next year or two, the LIDAR technology, um, is gonna improve so much that they will be really good. Uh, cuz. They, I mean, Google maps tries with their contour lines and things like that, but I think LIDAR should be able to show us where the water is.

That, I mean, that’s the biggest thing. Um, when you’re in the jungle, you need water source every night in order to wash in order to get water. And, um, if you kind of know where that is, you can base, right. We’re gonna try and walk. Two kilometers today. Again, doesn’t sound very much, [00:40:00] but that’s kind of a good day in that jungle.

Um, so yeah, I think in the next couple years it’s gonna be pretty good. Yeah. I, I think everyone sort of underestimates just, you know, like when we look at a Google map here and we think, oh, you know, walk 20 miles. Okay. That’ll probably take about a day or something in jungle. Everyone always underestimates.

Definitely definitely. And I think you, you just shouldn’t have a number in your head for the day. Otherwise expect it’s much worse to be like, have sort of high expectations and not get there for your mental health as bad. So just think right. I’m gonna walk. Eight hours for today. I’m just gonna see what happens.

I think that’s the best way to approach any jungle jungle. And did it take long to sort of come back to the UK and sort of recover after sort of 50 days of being in the jungle ma chattering a way? Is that the word ma chattering? Yeah. I mean, I suppose macheing yeah, I reckon we can get away that with, um, yeah, no, it was a bit of a whirlwind and I got back.

Um, I sort of [00:41:00] finished. We had a lot to do in the country in terms of go and see people, shake, shake lots of hands and do interviews and things like that. And then the same, same happened when I got back. So it wasn’t really, I had, I had sort of three weeks of nonstop just talking about an exhibition. I hadn’t even had time to digest yet and reflect.

So I was just repeating the same. I sort of selected three stories, um, that I could remember. It’s funny when you finish an expedition. You’re thinking, well, what the, what happened? Um, because you haven’t had time to actually think what happened. So I just picked a couple, couple things and then few weeks later I actually had time to stop, reflect and think.

Okay. Wow. Wow. We did it. Yeah. I, I think when you sort of get back from these trips, you need that sort of time to reflect on the sort of feelings, because when you’re fresh out of it, you’re sort of either on a massive high. Massive low mm-hmm . And so that sort of reflects in what you sort of, um, portray very early on, but actually [00:42:00] once you go back, think about it, think about what you’ve done.

You sort of have time to sort of gather your thoughts and actually be able to sort of tell the actual story in the way that you want to tell her 100% and also gives you time to understand what you’ve learned and why you did it. And, uh, uh, Yeah. Not, not trying by reflecting. I think you are, um, less likely to get that low that we talk about.

Um, it’s very easy to get low after a trip. Um, but if you can think, take the good, good bits that you learn out of it. And how can you do you know, not that again, not, you’re never gonna do the same trip again, but how can you. The things that you loved about it and the things that you really want to, um, emphasize and harness in the future things and what what’s that gonna entail.

So I think that’s what I’ve been doing, uh, ever since I got back from that trip and why I haven’t sort of jumped in to deciding exactly what I’m doing. Uh, next year until, until now as I start to hone in on it. Well, what an [00:43:00] incredible story and, um, you know, for people listening, I’m sure there will be more intrigued about the guy on and rainforest and heading out there in no time at all.

Absolutely. No, it’s a, it is a beautiful, beautiful country. Well, there’s a part of the show where we ask five questions to each guest each week bit different from last time you were. Absolutely. Yeah. Looking forward to it, uh, with the first being, what does it mean to have purpose? I think to have purpose is it’s a reason to get up in the morning.

Uh, it drives you and it also makes you feel like you’re doing exactly what you should be doing. Um, personally, ah, amazing and might be slightly different from, uh, the last episode that you were on. But what is your favorite? I think it’s probably the same quote. Um, I’m gonna say it’s yeah, I believe it’s the same quote, AME Amelia Earhart, which is, [00:44:00] uh, the quote of adventure is worthwhile in itself.

And for me, I think you, you can just do adventure for yourself. It doesn’t have to have lots of other reasons as well. Um, so if you wanna do an adventure, just, just go for it. You don’t have to have to answer to anyone. Very nice. And what is your favorite travel book and. My favorite travel book. And why?

Um, maybe, uh, maybe it’s an unusual one. Maybe it’s not, it’s mad, bad and dangerous to know. I dunno if that’s a travel book, but it’s ran off fines and it was a book that is a, is a book that changed me because it’s sort of just filled with so many different stories and it shows you that you can have so many different adventures in a lifetime.

You don’t just have to have one and they can come in all different forms and sizes. Um, so that inspired me person. Amazing. And why are these sort of adventures that you undertake so important to you? These adventures are important to me, um, for lots of different reasons for myself personally, I [00:45:00] think it’s, I am the best version of myself when I do these adventures.

And I know without a doubt that I am a better human being when I do these, these, these expeditions and these adventures and that grow with it. Um, so that’s one reason, but also I hope that by sharing what I do, um, can inspire other people to get outside. I think be by being outside, we have more of a connection.

To the outside world and maybe just, maybe you’ll want to, uh, protect it and share your passion for it as well. Very nice. And in your lifetime, what is the most memorable place that you’ve been and why? Most memorable place I have been. And why in my lifetime probably spell bad, spell bad up in the Arctic is where it all started for me.

Um, and it’s a place that when the, when the sun is shining, there’s vis a hundred percent visibility and you’re just skiing along with the PO with the sled behind you. It is nothing quite like it it’s just spectacular to blind scenery. And you just feel [00:46:00] so at. It sounds quite, quite hippy and cheesy, but I can’t.

Yeah, it’s, it’s an incredible place. And to go back there recently, again was a very humbling experience. So if you can, if you get the chance to go to try and go, when you’re sort of skiing along, is it a sort of silence that sort of greets you? Or is it just a sound of the wind? What can you sort of hear when you’re up?

Skiing along. So when you’re skiing along, you, you have this very specific sound of your skis it’s so your skis moving, um, back and forth and yeah, you’ll have a, you’ll have a little bit of wind coming through, uh, as through your, through your hat, um, and through, up and down mountains. Um, but it’s, it’s that crisp snow that you are gliding through, um, really comes to mind when I think of S art and think of up optic ping.

Very nice. And finally, how can people follow you and find you Lucy and follow your big adventures for the future? So people can find me on Lucy shepard.com and I’m [00:47:00] Lucy shes on social media. Very nice. Well, Lucy, it’s been an absolute pleasure getting you on again and listening to your stories. No, thank you very much.

It’s been there. It’s been a huge pleasure to share it and it is always nice to relive going back to the jungle. Yeah, absolutely. And hopefully, uh, we will have you back on scene for your big adventure next year or the year after. Whenever it may be. Absolutely. Yeah, no, I’ve got lots, lots up. Lots. Um, lots to come.

So yeah, I look forward to sharing that too. Amazing. Well, Lucy, thank you so much again. Thank you. It’s been really, really appreciate it. It’s great to talk. Thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed the show and don’t forget to subscribe and review the podcast. If you’re listening on. A massive, thank you to those who reviewed it.

And I hope to see you next week for another fascinating tele adventure, but till then have a great day wherever you are in the world and happy adventures.

Mike Corey

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MIKE COREY (ADVENTURER)

On today’s Podcast, we have Mike Corey. Mike Corey is a Youtuber, TV Host and Adventurer.

After working for several years creating short films for tourism brands worldwide, he turned his sights to YouTube. He began an adventure travel channel focusing on the world’s bizarre attractions and unique cultures. Participating in exploding hammer festivals, getting tattooed by a head hunter tattooist, and scuba diving in hydrogen sulphide are just a few of the adventures he’s taken his viewers on.

This week on the podcast, we are heading to turkey and exploring a place called satans castle, where what was meant to be a quiet night of solo camping turned into shots fired and my guest running from the police. I am delighted to introduce Mike Corey from Fearless and Far to the podcast.

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Transcript of our Conversation

Mike Corey

[00:00:00] Mike Corey Podcast: My next guest is an adventure travel YouTuber with over a million subscribers and a TV host. After working for several years, creating short films for tourism brands worldwide. He turned his size to YouTube where he began in adventure travel channel, focusing on the world’s most bizarre attractions and unique cultures.

This week on the podcast, we are heading to Satan’s cast. Where, what was meant to be a quiet night of solo camping turned into shots, being fired, running from the police. And what happened? My guest will tell you, I am delighted to introduce Mike Corey from fearless and far to the podcast. It’s good to be here.

Well, it’s an absolute pleasure to finally get you on, I mean, your story, I remember back in 2017 watching one of your videos about the Mexican hammer bombs or whatever you call them, exploding hammer festival. Yeah. Ex . Yeah. And I was absolutely hooked by the sort of level of production that [00:01:00] your travel videos go in.

And it’s an absolutely incredible sort of get you on to sort of talk about some of these adventures that you’ve done over the past sort of six, seven years. I will get into that. But at the beginning, I always like to start for the audience who don’t know you. Who are you, where you from and how did you get into this sort of life of adventures?

Cool. Well, I am a small town Canadian boy from Fredericton, new Brunswick, Canada. So it’s right above Maine. And in the United States, if you’re more familiar with there grew up in the woods and my, how I got into this, I guess I’ve, I’ve kind of teased out the story after 10 years of thinking about it.

But my, my parents are both very interested in the outdoor world, the natural world, and we would go to the Rocky beaches. Of new Brunswick, Canada. And there there’s a bay called the bay of fun day that has the highest tides in the world. 55 vertical feet of water, like vertical feet of water twice a day, goes up and down.

And so it [00:02:00] just carves the landscape and it’s full of tide pools and creatures and the waters like that cold north Atlantic water. And we used to go there specifically to Rocky beaches, to flip over rocks, to find crabs and sea cucumbers and whatever we could find. And. My parents taught me that and I became obsessed with flipping over rocks, even walking the trails behind our house.

Every time there was a rock, I’d have to flip it to see if there was a Saland or a snake or a spider. And that became my obsession. And then I think what’s happened is I just turned the whole world into a bunch of giant rocks. And so now for what I’ve been doing that for the past 10 years of my life is traveling to some lesser known countries like Turk, Stan, Congo, Mo and finding these lesser known things.

To explain them to the world because I realized back then when I was a kid that people thought, you know, secret cucumbers were slimy and gross and spiders were disgusting and dangerous, but they weren’t, people didn’t have a good understanding of these things. They maybe had some, they, [00:03:00] they absorbed this.

Knowledge that snakes are dangerous or spiders or icky or slimy. I don’t know. And then now that’s what everyone thought, but I knew I knew the truth and I made my passion to tell people about, Hey spiders, aren’t so bad snakes, aren’t so bad. And now it’s like, you know, the exploding hammer festival isn’t so bad or tur Stan is kind of bad, but you know, not as, not as bad as people to make it out to beat.

And so now I found myself an interesting career where I, it started off with a YouTube channel. Which has now about 1.2 million followers. I have a TV show, a couple TV shows, and now it’s one called uncharted adventure, which is on the weather channel in the USA, which is a one hour adventure travel show that I host.

I was on BBC travel show before that. And also I host a podcast called against the odds where me and a cohost we tell. We tell true survival stories of people on this planet and then try to get them on to talk about their, their stories. So besides that I’m on the road all the time. Like I I’m from [00:04:00] new Brunswick, Canada, I’m there a couple weeks, a year.

I’m mostly just a floater man trying to follow my nose. Like two can Sam, but for adventure I think is that sort of curiosity that you have from a young kid that sort of. Probably led you down this path of wanting to always look around the corner, sort of the sort of fear of Mitt out, not knowing what was sort of under that rock.

And as you said, you know similar is that sort of curiosity we’ve placed like tur Manton one of the most sort of. Closed off countries in the world. You know, I I’d say my audience, I’d be lucky to grab 1% who had been to tur Manda, but it is one of the most crazy, bizarre places that one can visit.

And I imagine a lot of people would always get put off by the sort of horror stories of tuck, man. But as you say, that sort of curiosity and that sort. Excitement to explore, sort of led you in and to see for your own eyes. And [00:05:00] you always get that sort of idea of. Yeah. I, you know, you hear these stories about certain places and you, you know, it’s all terrifying.

And then when you go, you actually find the reality it’s completely different. Exactly. And we, the people that are always the most incredible, I think the whole tourism friendly thing is backwards, honestly, after traveling to these countries, cuz the most rudely I’ve been treated is in like France and you know in the Netherlands and places like that.

Whereas the, the, the people who go out of their way to invite me into their homes for coffee is like Morita, tur, Stan, Pakistan, these countries that are touristed unfriendly. It’s backwards, man. stand in the bike lane in, in, in Europe. And , you’ll see of some, unfriendliness not saying Europeans are unfriendly, but like in these countries, you’d expect everyone to be mean and nasty and like villains from a, a bond film.

They’re they go out of their way to, to make you comfortable and happy. Yeah. You suffered from Paris syndrome. [00:06:00] Yeah, I did have a good time in Paris. The one time I was there, there was a couple moments with, of I speak like qua French a little bit. And so they’re not, they’re not. So they don’t fancy that Lang that accent so much.

But I found a really cool UN like a party under the bridge where there was people playing music and it was, it was cool. That was like the authentic Paris. I, I think for people who don’t know Paris syndromes, probably my favorite ING it’s based on the Japanese who. Have a direct flight to Paris and they go with such amazing expectations about how wonderful Paris is.

And then the the reality is slightly different. And then they come back and need therapy to sort of get over it. I think new York’s probably the same too. but yeah’s sort of same. Like you’re in America at the moment I found in the Midwest, like the hospitality, there was second to none. Whereas as you say, sort of new.

California people are more sort of set in their own life. Whereas the [00:07:00] hospitality in middle America is I would say one of the best in the world. Mm-hmm mm-hmm and they get labeled with like, you know, guns and blah, blah. But they’re I was in Louisiana. That’s the Midwest, right. I’m still confused by the Midwest being kind of east, honestly.

But yeah, the friendliest people in, in the country, man, it’s really nice. Yeah. And so over the last year, you’ve sort of traveled all over the world sort of. And what I love about your channel is that you sort, sort of have take these adventures, which are very different to everyone’s normal one week, two week vacation.

It’s sort of delving into sort of tribes in Africa, in south America. And. Probably one of the stories you would love to tell is the sort of story of one of those experiences. Yeah. So that’s kind of what got me in the groove. I made YouTube videos for a long time, but in the past couple years I [00:08:00] found something that I really loved and that was visiting.

Well, here’s a thing, man. I did biology in, in university. I wasn’t a great student, but Hey don’t have to be, but I love like the field courses. I always loved being outside and I had more books on bugs and, and things like that than anything else. Thank you. And so from there, I thought I wanted to travel the world to see animals and mountains and oceans.

And I did, but I always found myself going back and thinking about my favorite memories. And it was the memories of people. It wasn’t, you know, how cool that monkey was or what we saw on the scuba dive. I mean, I loved. But it was always, I always felt more fondly towards the people that I met. And so I kind of followed that and started to in focus, my travels on meeting, interesting people, and maybe some people listening now are the same way you think back your travels.

And those are always the most powerful moments. I mean, we’ve just spent the past 10 minutes talking about the same thing, right? It’s the people that we’ to travel for. [00:09:00] And I went out to kind of find that to the extreme. So it took me all around the world to. Meet local tribes. Interesting people. I was in Congo.

I met like the SAP, the guys that were like the orange sparkly suits and walked the streets, looking like millionaires in poverty. Went to Tanzania to hunt baboons with the hunter gatherers, the Hadza. I was one of the first to do that on YouTube a couple years ago and it got like 11 million views.

Those guys live traditionally, how we used to live in the African rift valley. You know, they’re still prying open trees with their hands, pulling honey out, getting stung, shooting baboons with poison arrows and, and stuff like that. But there’s a story that, that just happened in my life last, like November.

That’s now, what is it June a few months ago. And it’s a que one. I, a story. I get a lot of questions about because people don’t believe it’s true and I can guarantee people that it’s true. And I’m going to tell it today [00:10:00] if you don’t mind, but there’s no, it’s, it’s a kind of an unorthodox encounter with humans because it didn’t really, it was kind of a, definitely a misadventure Def and maybe one of the closest times I’ve ever felt like I was going to die, honestly.

Oh, wow. And so what made you sort. Go on this adventure. What was sort of drawing you towards it or was it completely accidental? No, it wasn’t. It was, it was intentional for sure. The idea, the idea was solo, camping. I love solo camping and coming from Canada, there’s not. I’ve also have a fascination with castles.

So I had this fantasy in my head. Is it possible? The solo camp in a castle and here in north America, there’s not very many castles and they’re all natural heritage sites, but you go to Europe, there is a fricking million castles. There’s so many castles. They, some of them don’t have names like every Hilltop has a castle, almost in some places.

And in Turkey, especially in the all through the central part, they’re not necessarily castles, but [00:11:00] they’re like cliff homes and stuff, but there’s you think there’s only a few, but there’s, there’s a million. And so in my head, I was like, It’d be cool to camp in some of these things. So my first castle was in Romania or I, I solo camped in there, this beautiful thing with a tower and on a Hilltop.

And I had a campfire. And then the same thing happened in Kaia where there’s all these cliff homes. And I found like a cliff home away from the tourist track and, and camp inside of that. So these ancient tunnels carved by hand by, by people and because there’s so many they’re. Some are protected.

Yeah. They’re really nice ones, but there’s lots that are like really, really quite nice that are just lost laying on the forest. There, there might be a hiking trail to them, but there’s no regulation. There’s no ticket booth. There’s no guard. There’s, there’s nothing. And I’m always really respectful for these things.

I’ll clean up after from God. I’m not trying to break anything. So I, I found one in Turkey. I was traveling in north Eastern Turkey, near the border of Georgia. And [00:12:00] were the more like Muslim side of following with this idea of solo, camping and epic places. I was in Eastern Turkey, bordering Syria, Iran, Georgia, and there there’s all kinds of ancient history.

And I was kind of poking through different sites and blogs and posts, trying to find. Cool locations to visit. And I found this place, John called Satan’s castle and Satan’s castle was this incredibly old. Tower of stone that was placed in a valley. So if you picture like a valley and a, it like a, a cut with a knife through a cake.

So there was this jagged rift, and then there was a little out jut and on this little out jut, this pillar of, of stone, there was this castle placed. Precariously on it. And there was this sort of small land bridge type thing, connecting it to the bridge. And it was in the middle of nowhere and it was the, it was the perfect fantasy castle with a tower and this giant [00:13:00] ramper and walls and bridges.

And it seemed just unbelievably. Interesting for being in a place. So remote and I was going up to Georgia to meet my girlfriend at the time, and we had parted ways and there’s a lot of other cool things up there. Like there’s a thing called mad honey, this like hallucinogenic honey that is famous in Nepal.

It’s also in Turkey. So I was there and we tried some mad honey got a little crazy and I was on my way to meet her in in Georgia. Normally for these, these adventures, I’d have a local guide. We’d speak to the people because it always makes it more interesting, but there was some problems with logistics getting a car rental.

We were driving her four by four and I kept on breaking down. So we didn’t have too much time. I was by myself and I was like, you know what, screw it. I’m passing by there. Anyway, it’s only a couple hours off the highway. I’ll hit that up and I’ll meet her in Georgia. So I, in my rental car, I go get some wood.

I get all the, the things you need to camp to make the kind of fantasy. And like all the documentation. There was no, [00:14:00] again, didn’t seem like there was any kind of guard or security. Didn’t seem like a national heritage site just seemed like a bunch of really interesting rocks on top of another rock.

And I was driving. Through one small village to get there. It was kind of maybe a mile or so away from the actual castle itself once we got there. So I was driving this little town and it was filled with just cows and piles of cow shits and blue tarped houses. It was like very, very rural. Again, I’ll book a few houses there.

I get, there is a path that kind of walks along the Ridge valley to my right mountains, to my left. And there’s a kind of like one parking spot and there’s a sign that beat up sign that says Satan’s castle. And that was it. And so I wanted to go scout it. And so I. Do a quick run. It’s a, maybe like a 15 minute walk along this, the side of this valley.

And then you dip down and you come back up and I saw the castle for the first time because it takes quite a while to get there hiking. And it was beyond anything I’d seen [00:15:00] before. It looked like it was from a Hollywood movie. The tower went up into the sky. There was vultures circling around. It was, it was perfect.

And so I go back and I get my backpack and I get all of my bits and pieces to camp. Still not knowing if I was gonna camp, but if the opportunity was there, let’s fricking do it. And so I’m going, and along the way, there’s one shirtless Turkish man with like a big burly chest, riding, a bareback horse, holding onto the main.

And he like waves at me as he’s bringing his sheep and cows past . And he is the only guy I saw. So we have a little wave he’s like kind of weirded out that I’m there with, you know, a backpack full of stuff. And I make the hike and I’m sweating. And I crawl down the side of the valley and I crawl back up and there I am solo in Satan’s castle and it was probably around 1:00 PM.

And so I’m exploring I’m, you know, being a YouTuber to the max, running around, there’s like murder holes, you know, those holes in the rampers, you can drop oil down, they [00:16:00] have those, they’ve got these, all these different towers with arrow slits in them and everything I’m like in a, a kid in the candy shop.

It, it felt like I had, I was in ancient times, basically. There was an old chapel with carved stone kind of offset to the side I was exploring in there. There was these tunnels that kind of led around. Places to so many secrets. I was hoping I could get in the tower, but it looks at some point that the stairs had broken, but it was still, it was still totally fine.

There was a couple peculiar, peculiar, peculiar things though. There was a couple peculiar things though. And some of them were ominous for later LA later problems later, MIS adventures. So a couple things, there was almost like holes that looked like they were blown open in the side of it, a couple places.

And I thought maybe it was an old tunnel or, or what. Something people exploring and damaging. I didn’t quite understand, but there was a, a series of these flood lights that were placed around the castle too, to, to light it up at night. And I was like, oh, that’s kind of weird [00:17:00] because again, we’re so far away from anybody being able to see it, you know, there’s no, there’s no tourist here that I saw, but even then there’s no village.

There’s no way to see it if it was lit up. So why would it be? But it didn’t matter because these lights all had their wires cut. So there was like a flood light that was smashed and the wire was. So I was like, okay, well, I guess it’s not gonna be a problem for later because it would kind of bust the bubble if there was big flood lights on this thing.

And I’m having the time of my. So sun starts to set quite early because we’re in a valley and it was about four, 5:00 PM. And I’m starting to make a camp fire set up my camp. I found a nice spot and things were looking good. And so I made a little bit of food and was filming like a star lap. And I At one point I , I think I had lost my head torch because I was so excited running around and, and camera gear with camera gear.

But one thing I always do in these places is I, again, always thinking about the shot. I bring the materials to fashion, like a [00:18:00] traditional torch, like a fire torch, like a wooden dowel with some fuel and some wire and some cloth. And so I had lost my head torch, I think, at the base of the. Castle as I was climbing up and filming and I was like, I’ll just make my, you know, my, my medieval torch and explore and, and take some photos.

So it, wouldn’t it be epic of this guy exploring an old castle with a torch. And so I make that, and then I, I light it and I’m walking down. It’s the dark, it’s probably around 11:00 PM around 12. And I set up the trip, the tripod and I’d get a shot of me walking out and, and then I’m descending down and then I hear a sound and.

So to explain this correctly, I’m on this kind of out jut of the valley. And I can see the trail from across the the, the gap between the Ridge and where I am. So there’s kind of like a, the trail. You can see a kind of walking spin. Spinning around the side of the mountain wall, and then you have to come up.

And so anybody to come towards [00:19:00] me has to walk along this trail, then dip down and come back up. But between us, there is a, a CVAs, right? So I’m there. And there was one, one singular street light that was lit on that trail, but all the lights on the castle were off, which I was kind of happy about, honestly, would would’ve ruined the vibe, but I look and there’s people standing there in that streetlight it’s maybe like.

Couple hundred meters away. I, but I can see them. Definitely. There’s three people standing there. I was like, that’s kind of weird, but you know, that’s fine. And then I hear a gunshot and I, the, the, the, the ripping of the, of the bullet zoom over my head through the air. Making my own sound effects now. And , and I was like, okay that’s weird.

But a couple weeks ago we were camping in this four by four. And there was people who woke us up with their guns at Dawn cuz they were shooting ducks just by our, our four by [00:20:00] four . And so I was like, oh, maybe these are hunters. But again, it’s kind of a weird time to hunt. And then I hear screaming.

Like I just screwed somebody’s mother, like screaming, like I had just killed a baby. It was the most horrific screaming and I didn’t speak Turkish. And so they were yelling and yelling and screaming and I was like, oh, who are they talking to? And then another bullet zips by my head. I’m like, no, that they’re, they’re talking to me.

They’re screaming at me. They’re shooting at me. And in my head, I’m like, this has gotta be a misunderstanding. Well, why, how, like maybe they think I’m just some damn kid here, like spray painting and having sex with my girlfriend or something. I don’t know. Like why, why are they shooting and screaming?

They must be just trying to scare me away. And so I extinguish the torch and I’m hiding behind this rock, thinking that they’ll think I left. No, they come sprinting. So these three guys shoot another shot, scream and come sprinting along the path to where I am. [00:21:00] So what do you do in my head? I’ve been to a lot of places, seen a lot of people.

I, I have the belief that people are kind and these things don’t happen in real life. Here we are. And it’s happening in real life. Is it a misunderstanding? They’re shooting guns at me. I mean, Best case scenario. They’re just, I don’t know, playing a joke. Doesn’t sound like a joke. Worst case scenario. They are terrorists or they are crazy drunk locals who think I shouldn’t be there or something.

You know what I mean? So I have to make a decision. There’s only one way on and off where I am. It’s that little basic land bridge. They have maybe about 15 minutes of running jogging before they can make it to. Get me. I know I have, I can get there in about five. So my choice is to sit and hide on this.

Again, it’s an island, basically. There’s nowhere to hide. I can hide in the [00:22:00] castle, but there’s three guys. It’s not , it doesn’t really work that way. Or try to beat them out the front door at the front gate and climb into the mountains before they get there. So I go for that option. And I don’t wanna light my light, so I have my phone and I was like, I don’t wanna use the flashlight of my phone.

So actually what I did is I pressed record on the phone. So then I could use this, the, the, the vague light of the screen. And also, Hey, if Everything worked out. I’d have at least audio of what’s going on. So I, so I could use that very dim light just to see my, where my feet work. Cause it’s all mixed boulders and sticks and stones and stuff.

So I scramble up my feet going down between the, the holes and the rocks I grab like just my backpack, cuz my passport, I didn’t really care about my camera was like passport and basics. Right. So I, I grab that kind of. And I sprint out and I make it out the front door before they make it into the front door.

And I’m hiding on the side of this cliff, like holding onto [00:23:00] shrubs, growing up this, growing off the side of the cliff, as they walk by maybe mm, 2015 meters beside me with their flashlights and guns. I see them as I’m peering through the bushes, these guys searching for me with flashlights and guns. They go up into the cast.

And I hear them screaming and shooting again, and they walk up to the top of the, like the ramper and they’re looking and the feeling of having some people, you know, that are armed, who, in this case, I didn’t know they were trying to hurt me, but obviously they weren’t trying to be friends searching with a flashlight and you’re in the Bush.

As the flashlight crosses across your vision and you see them stop for a second. That’s a feeling , I will never forget you’re being hunt. Basically. And again, I, I just think back to, to other people in the past that other significant events that we, when you actually were hunted and you knew if you were caught, you were dead.

That wasn’t necessarily the case for me, but it was in the realm of possibility. At that point. [00:24:00] That’s a horrible feeling. I’ll never forget that. So whenever the flashlight wasn’t in my direction, I would try to scramble up the side of this cliff to get higher up into the, into the mountains. I had my cell phone and I had one sliver of 3g.

I had a friend of mine, a Turkish friend who lived a couple hours away. And he’s the only person I, I know I knew there. So I texted him and I was like, his name was Ette. And I said, Ette, I’m here at the castle. He knew I was going. I told him I was going and there’s people here and they have guns and he’s like, what do they want?

I’m like, I don’t want to know what they want, but they don’t want me here. And he’s like, okay, where’s your stuff? And I said, I left it like, well, they’re going to steal it. They’re obviously terrorists or they’re, they’re there to cause problems. So what do you have? I’m like, I have like a basic backpack on my passport and he’s like, okay, well I’ll call the police.

You sit tight. And so time goes by, it feels like hours. It [00:25:00] was about 35 minutes of me waiting and them again, shooting more shots, scream. Looking for a flashlight now they’re starting to realize, Hmm, he’s not in the castle anymore. And they’re start starting to wander back along the path where I am like towards where I am coming back around the castle.

And I was like, oh fuck. Like at that point I couldn’t really, I could climb farther, but it’s very, like, it was very dangerous and it was very cold too. It was like November and I wasn’t appropriately dressed. So in my head, I’m like, I go back down to say, Hey guys, I’m sorry, or I keep climbing and I risk exposure.

I risk falling. It was just not a good situation. But the way they were screaming, I just chose to go higher into the mountains. I didn’t even have my car keys, so I couldn’t sneak back out to the car. And there’s only one path. They would’ve seen me go back on the path. So I would’ve had to stay the night in the mountains, but I knew I didn’t wanna go back.

So I go and I’m crouched and I’m trying to get farther away and the flashlight keeps sweeping by and I sprint when it’s not [00:26:00] coming my direction. And then I get a call back from from Suat and I’m like, Hey, Suat man, they’re still here. Where are the police? And he goes, okay, the police are there. And I was like, fuck, finally, man.

And he is like, yeah, all right, just hold tight. And then I’m waiting, I’m waiting, I’m waiting. And then I, he calls me back and he goes, okay. The police have been there for, for like an hour and a. And I was like, I called you like an hour, 15 minutes ago. And he was like, yeah, but they’re there. Can you see them?

And I was like, no, I don’t see them. And I was like, I would’ve seen anybody else come because there’s only one path. And then he’s like, okay, let me call back. And then, so he calls me back and he goes, dude, those are the police they’re coming to look for you. They think you’re a terrorist and a treasure hunter.

And you’re trying to steal the treasure from Satan’s castle. And I was like, oh shit, . So what had happened is that I walked in with my big backpack full of, you know, tripods and gear and stuff. I mean, [00:27:00] tourists would come there, but they’d come with a little sack of water and snacks or something. Right. So this guy parks his car, his rental car.

He. Brings all this stuff in gear and shit. That one guy would’ve saw me, or maybe some people in the village would’ve saw me and they saw me stay. And apparently there’s this treasure, this treasure of a princess that’s hidden underneath Satan’s castle. No one’s ever found. So there was a history there.

And what had happened, man, is that the police showed up and they saw that all the lights were. Someone had cut all of the lights and the lights were there to keep treasure hunters away from the castle. And so when they showed up and they saw that the lights were cut and there was a report of a treasure hunter and terrorist stealing the treasure from the locals.

They’re like, we gotta get this guy. And that’s why they stormed the castle to get me cuz they thought I was after the princess’s treasure. So I’m there on the cliff and I’m putting all this together. And I was like, of course, of course it’s this right? Of course. Like people just don’t hunt other people in real life.

[00:28:00] But I was like, Sue, what are you? 100% sure. Because these guys seem really angry. And it’s like, no, definitely. Like I spoke to one of ’em on the phone. They’re waiting for you by your tent. and so I, I do like this walk of shame back, end up finding my head torch on the path, which I didn’t have time to find before, go up.

And I’m still like shaking, cuz I’m like these guys just were literally hunting me with guns and they shot eight shots. I meet them and they’re like, oh Mike, we’re so sorry, man. We’re so sorry. And they spoke, they spoke broken English and they’re like, why, why, why did you run? Why did you run? I’m like, cause you were fucking shooting me, man, what am I supposed to do?

And they’ve got the coll of Coff and a pistol. And I’m like, did you, did you, you were shooting at me. And he goes, oh yeah, little with this. And he hands me the pistol, the hold. And he is like, why are you here? Why are you spending the night? And I was like, I’m, I’m here. I’m, I’m the photographer. I make YouTube videos.

And he is like, oh, you’re on YouTube. What’s your channel. We’ll [00:29:00] subscribe. So these guys subscribe to my YouTube channel and then they’re like, you can’t stay here. Listen, like it’s dangerous. There’s bears. And there’s wolves. I mean, I’m used to bears of wolves with Canadian camping, but they’re like, you can’t stay here.

We’ll put you up in a, in a hotel, down the road, you know, we’ll drive you there just, don’t worry. We’re like, we’re so sorry. It’s a misunderstanding. And yeah, so they they’re like, they were happy that I wasn’t a treasure hunter and I’m happy that I wasn’t being hunted. But if you want to, here’s a, if anybody’s listen, If you wanna catch a treasure hunter don’t shoot eight shots and scream like you just F their mother sneak up on them.

If they would’ve snuck up on me with, with guns, like they would’ve saw, I was doing nothing. Number one, and we would’ve avoided this altercation shooting and screaming and storming. The castle did not make me, doesn’t make it easier to get caught. . So anyway, no harm, no foul. Hell of a good story. I did because I was using the, the, the [00:30:00] camera, the, the phone as a bit of a flashlight.

I do have some of it on camera and was able, and I was filming all that day for a video. Right. So I have, I had it. Oh, I have it all on camera. There is a YouTube video out there if you wanna watch it, but it was, it was. The the most scared I’d been traveling, which is kind of funny because my online alias is fearless and far yeah.

There was a sort of part where, as you say, you are sort of hiding from them and there there’s always that moment of like, when they’re close and you, you either want to be the first one out the block to say, Hey, Hey, like sort, obviously misunderstanding where that sort of you know, weighing up the possibilities of run or.

Own up. Where was that sort of in your mindset because you decided to run, was there a part of you that was like, this has to be, or was it just the fear and the adrenaline pumping through you that like I’m in a country? I don’t know that, well, this could be dangerous. I guess I kind of go into game [00:31:00] mode with that stuff.

Because I, I put myself, I mean, this is on the situation. I find myself often, but like, Through free diving and skydiving and scuba diving. And a lot of these adventures. I know I’m often in places where there is danger there, but. I’ve trained myself enough to handle it. So when that feeling kicks in, I’ve put a lot of time to understand fear and how it works in my body and other people’s bodies.

And that’s why I love talking about that. And that’s why the channel’s called fearless and far. Not because I am fearless, but because I’ve realized fearlessness is a choice. In most circumstances, it’s not a, a, a form of enlightenment where you, one day you become fearless. If you continue to grow as a person, you’ll always have fear.

So that’s the message. So when this happened and me knowing that this stuff doesn’t happen in real life, so rarely like lottery odds, I was like 80% chance. This is, this is a total misunderstanding. Well, they sound very angry and they are shooting [00:32:00] shots and 20% chance I just am super unlucky. And those odds, I didn’t like those odds.

If it was 99% fine, I probably would’ve owned up, but the way they were screaming and shooting, and then they sprinted towards me. Made me think that, you know, maybe this one time I’m wrong and maybe this is the, you know, the, the thing everyone’s worried about happening in front of me. And I didn’t put together, like, okay, if I did run in, into the, into the forest, into the, the mountain, What did, what would that mean in my head?

It was just that I’m getting away from them. But again, like I could fall off the cliff that’s instant death that could have even happened. You know, I, if I, if I didn’t have any reception, I would’ve spent the night in the cold on the side of a mountain that’s death from exposure, hypothermia. So those were real things I didn’t consider in the moment.

That were like the, you know, then what happens then? Big, big guy, you know, when you’re actually hiding out and they don’t leave. I, I guess I assume they’d come they’d check and then they’d leave when they didn’t find me, but they didn’t leave. They were, they, they were [00:33:00] very adamant to find me. So if I didn’t have that one bar of reception, I would’ve probably said hiding in the mountains.

I don’t know, but it was just not, not a good situation. And we all the adrenaline pumping back to the hotel. I imagine the night’s sleep that night. Would’ve been. Heart racing, trying to sort of calm yourself down. . Well, we, they drove me back to this like boutique hotel on this like Lakeside resort. It was about an hour drive away and we sat there and we smoked cigarettes and drove and drank Yi, no Iraqi together.

This moon shine type drink. So we with these guys who just, we had this experience with went back, smoked cigarettes. Drank Rocky for like two hours or something like that. And then actually I told when I, when I was in the middle of all this, and I didn’t know the outcome, the first person I messaged before Sue out was my girlfriend saying.

This guy’s here with guns. Here’s my location. And so I pinned the location and she’s like, I’m coming. [00:34:00] I’m like, don’t, don’t freaking come. Like, I don’t even know what’s happening. Just you stay where you are. Cuz she was about two hours driving, doing her own solo, camping in her four by four. I was like, don’t come.

I don’t want, I don’t need you here right now. You know? Like nothing. She’s like, oh, come, I’ll just come, come talk to them. I’m like, I, I don’t think that’s a good idea. so anyway, she didn’t listen to me and she, she drove. So she arrived about an hour after we arrived at the hotel. And so I was able to talk to her through everything after having some alcohol and cigarettes with the boys.

So all in all it turned out to be a great night. But yeah, it was, it was a few moments of just pure harrowing adventure there. I think when you sort of talk about sort of solo, camping, sorry, solo, camping, and the way it sort of breaks down that sort of fear. or the first time you do, it’s slightly terrifying for people on the, who are listening to the podcast who haven’t done it.

It’s that sort of fear that something like this might happen, but it’s incredibly rare [00:35:00] this so rare, so rare. And yeah, as I say, you know, we spoke with Ava last year, Ava, back on. Okay, well, that’s the girl, that’s my girlfriend. so she’s the one who came. Yeah, she’s the one who came and, and, and we were doing solo, separate solo campaign.

So she was sort of saying like, you know, so many times you have the most incredible experience doing the solo campaign and people sort of think that. Stuff like this happens all the time, but it is just incredibly rare, but a great story to tell as well. exactly. And so you hear the great stories, right?

And I, I had done, I’ve done so much solo, camping and all with just such an amazing feeling after, and you’re right, exactly. Cuz the first time you go, even if it’s in your backyard, you’re like you hear a snap of a twig and you’re like, oh my God, it’s a bear. But after a while, you start to put some logic into it, like if it was a bear, would the bear just magically appear next to your tent?

And the sticks would crack? No, you’d hear [00:36:00] it coming. Like when you actually hear a bear coming one time when I did go solo camping, a bear came and I could hear it coming for 15 minutes. And so finally, when it did emerge from the forest, I was like, ah, and it was like ho and it sprinted away. And that was like my greatest fear, you know, encountering a bear while, while solo camping in Canada.

But it was, it was. More spooked than I was. People shoot them with guns. They generally don’t want anything to do with people. If you have food around, it’s different. Just make sure your food’s not there, but generally. Yeah. But as you say, it’s sort of conquering that fear that you once had before you encountered that bay.

There was probably, as you say that running through your head and then once you’ve sort of had that experience, you know, how to counteract it when it does. Yeah. Maybe military police with assault rifles too. Yeah, exactly how that works. cause it was the military police. They came after me. So next time when they come shooting and screaming, I’ll be like, all right.

Hey guys, [00:37:00] I got some Rocky here and cigarette salty for you guys coming up.

Well, it’s an absolutely incredible story. And, you know, you’ve got probably a million more stories to tell, but there’s a part of the show where we ask the same five questions to each guest each week with the first question being, what does it mean to have purpose? I think it’s the key to happiness.

It’s hard to find it, but without purpose, I think you feel lost and demotivated and people wonder why they succumb to addictions, whether it be alcohol or video games or social media. Flipping through looking for likes and comments, whatever those are, all addictions without strong purpose. You, you default to those things because you need something to, to keep going.

I’m not a religious guy, but I think that we’ve, since we’ve removed religion, In a lot of people’s lives. They’ve found other ways to find purpose. I think the human soul [00:38:00] needs something to give them that. And around the world, you see people find their, their purpose through religion, through a belief system.

Well, the problem is now science is. Gotten in there and kind of metaled with a few of the the, the points. And so we don’t, a lot of us don’t believe in a higher purpose and, but what purpose do we have? None. Some find it and me travel adventure, sharing my thoughts on fear in the world. I gather bits and pieces, like some mosaic that I find views on death from Mexico and Torah and Indonesia.

And I’ve been able to build my own. I guess it’s more belief system than purpose, but through all that you find your place, but it’s hard because it takes time. I think it’s, it’s, it’s the most important thing to focus on, but it’s not something you’re gonna get by watching a, how to find your purpose video on YouTube.

It’s something you get by spending the time reading books and. Here’s the thing I like about books is that you can watch a motivational video on YouTube [00:39:00] and you feel good for a bit, but a book takes time. It’s basically like a, a series where every day, or every couple days you open, you read pages and it just affirms this belief, this, this thing, you’re learning this topic and that’s what you need.

You need to have it sink in. You have to stew in it. And if you don’t have purpose out there I would say. Journal. Like for me, I found it through journaling and reading books and traveling the world and seeing how other people lived. I journal every single day. I have a book the front half is more kind of like getting shit done.

Creatively the back half is I just do. I do morning pages. I dump the thoughts in my head. I think about all of these different bits and pieces of my life. Why I am the way I am. That’s actually how I’ve discovered one day about this rock thing and how it led to where I am. And how it’s kind of the same thing flipping over these rocks and looking at unexpected places for beauty.

It’s exactly the same thing. I found that just by putting on music, [00:40:00] either in the morning, drinking some coffee or at night cigar rum and Coke, and just kind of shooting the shit. Am I happy? Yes. Or no rating outta 10. How do I feel my, with my friendships, my purpose, just really thinking about that. Cuz it takes time and where these complicated creatures that ha you know, you get bruised as a kid.

Like for me there, as long as you like questions, For me, like going deeper into this fear thing. In grade four, I got brought up in front of a classroom and made fun of twice by the teacher and that stuck. And so for most of my life, I, I, I had a, a fear public speaking, and now obviously I don’t have a problem at all.

And that’s been my journey, like overcoming that thing and, and actually flourishing in it and becoming better than most at it because I’ve worked hard at it. But that journey in itself, I had to put a lot of the pieces together because no one gets through childhood UN bruised, like were these impression balls of clay.

And so you have these [00:41:00] childhood traumas that you’ve mostly forgot about, or you don’t know how they’ve affected your adult life. Like these little fears as kids, they manifest themselves. These adult fears. So you’re not as, you know, scared of the monster under the bed, but you’re scared of like failure or being alone, or like they manifest themselves.

They’re very smart. They there’s adult versions of these things that are basically the same thing. And you have to, you have to figure that shit out first. And then once you get all the bullshit outta the way, then purpose and deeper things, happiness and all this, and they can, they can show themselves more clearly, but there’s there’s shit.

You gotta Wade through first. There’s your, your long answer to a short, rapid fire question. ah, that was absolutely brilliant. And what about your favorite quote? I probably have two and I might change, I might have forgotten the words exactly, but ni CIN had one that said I and [00:42:00] then it, and then hold on.

I said ni again, ni Y said that, and then the time came when the risk, it took to stay in a bud overcame the risk, it took to blossom almost like that. So basically I feel like that’s how a lot of people live their life, where they live all tight in a bud. And then all of a sudden the pressure builds.

The risk, it takes to stay the same, overcomes the risk and fear it takes to change. And then your life change changes forever. And it was put very, very eloquently by her. Also, Joseph Campbell has a good one that I live my life by two. And it’s, it’s the cave you fear to enter highs, the treasure that you seek.

And that’s been a guiding light in my life because quite often, fear is a compass. Where, where you, where you feel resistance and discomfort. [00:43:00] If you go that direction. In my case, it was the public speaking dude. Like I, I, I was a shy kid with a phobia public speaking, and now I have a, a travel TV show, a, a, a, a YouTube channel with a, a million subscribers, a podcast, how it’s because I entered that goddamn cave.

The one I, with my hand, shaking in my heart, beating. People don’t do that. I, I was beaten around enough by life to do some crazy things. It’s a long story, but crazy thing is means like going on my first solo trip, I was so scared to do that. But you go and everything’s fine. And all of a sudden, if you follow that fear compass and you, you use it as a guiding light, going into those dark caves, your life changes forever.

That’s where your dream life is. That’s where you find your purpose and your happiness is by doing those things. And that’s why I speak so much about it. Yeah, I think we’ve had people on who sort of talk about like breaking out that sort of fear and [00:44:00] almost like a balloon, you blow it up and it gets a bit bigger and you think, oh wow.

I’m I can get to this. And then you blow up a bit more and it’s a bit bigger. Yeah. And gradual, and gradually, it just gets bigger. And same with like your first query. I think it’s very similar to the one of. A sailing boat was made to go to the sea and not to stay in Harbor. even though I, I voted it’s a boat in Harbor is safe, but that’s not what boats were, something like that.

One of those piece travel quotes you see, like in cursive on a white wall like this, right. well, I’ve absolutely purchased it so everyone can enjoy that one. a sh a ship in Harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are meant for. There we go. Is it John spoken perfectly. And what about your favorite travel book and why favorite travel book?

The first travel book I read was Vago bonding by Ralph pots. Got to meet Ralph Potts. He’s a super awesome guy. Just met him a couple a couple weeks ago. [00:45:00] But that book now is because that was like the first manual, how to do this. Right. And then there was like four hour work week, which kind of built on that and, and forward.

My favorite travel book there is actually, hold on. I just read one.

There we go. This is not, this is not it, but it’s by the same author. There’s a guy named Jedediah Jenkins who wrote a book called to shake the sleeping self. And I wanna bring this up specifically, cuz it’s not necessarily my favorite travel book, but I read it and I realized that this, this was called to shake the sleeping self by Jediah Jenkins.

It was the perfect book that I needed to read when I was going to first start my adventure. So I don’t know where everyone is listeners at home on your personal adventures. But if you’re looking for a book to inspire you to get out there, that’s a great book. He’s a great writer. And he [00:46:00] Chronicles how he started his bike journey from The United States, I believe down to Argentina.

Haven’t finished the book yet. I didn’t finish the book because it wasn’t the one I needed at the time, but it was a fantastic way to get the inspiration, to start a trip. And I think for most people, it’s, it’s starting the trip as the hardest part. And for me, like I was a kid from a small town. I’m not gonna find some guy at the local bar who.

It’s gonna be like, oh yeah, man, take your bike down to, to Argentina, go to Congo, go, go backpacking in Congo. It’s fine. It’s fine. Don’t worry about it. That doesn’t happen. So you need, you need those, like I said, mentioned books and things to, to, to have that voice in your head podcast work too. But being able to hang out with, hang out with someone, either in a literary form or in an audio form.

To to, I mean, this podcast is the same thing. You get to meet us or hear our stories and, and hang and, and get more data points on how you can actually do these things. Really powerful stuff. So that’s what I’d recommend. [00:47:00] Definitely. If you’re looking to get out there, which I think most of us are.

Yeah, absolutely. And why are these adventures important to you? I think it’s the essence of the human soul. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just that way. I, I was always the guy who wanted to know what was over the next hill or, you know, under the next rock. And inside of us, all I feel is the, is the nomad spirit, the Explorer spirit.

We are roaming hunter gatherers originally and there. Like why have we always tried to see what’s on the other side of the ocean or the other side of the mountain? Maybe it’s because something deep down inside of us thinks it’s, you know, greener pastures or more bountiful forests with animals to eat.

I don’t know what it is, but I’ve got a Matt affliction of, of whatever that is and the world, while the world is mostly explored on a map, let’s say there’s still all kinds of incredible discoveries, all of the time, people and foods and places and animals and, and ways of [00:48:00] living. And I it’ll never end So I I’m just really drawn to that, knowing that each experience that I have using that mosaic example again.

I collect those it’s like pieces for a lens in my life. I, I don’t think I was born into a culture that gave me the correct lens. I never really felt like I totally fit in or agreed with everything that I saw. So I smashed that and I’ve been collecting bits and fragments from around the world to create my own in which I can see the world and myself in it more clearly.

And I don’t think that’ll ever be completely, there’ll always be a couple little missing pieces or a better piece I can swap in. And I like stories and I like meeting interesting people and that all ties together with this modern day adventure kind of attitude we have, I think, and seeing what the, seeing what we’re possible of.

I think like we, we don’t, we don’t use this machine that we have this, this biological. We don’t go out there [00:49:00] and test it. It’s incredible. The things our bodies can do, and we don’t ever put them to the test. I like seeing other people do these things, meeting other people who are, you know, climbing. You know, 40 meter trees to get bees nest out of canopies.

Like humans can do this stuff. People can hold their breath for 10 minutes to catch fish on the bottom of the ocean with a, with a stick. Like it’s incredible what humans can do. And I love seeing it. So yeah, all that and curiosity, you know? Yeah. It’s that sort of curiosity to see how far you can go.

Really? Exactly. And in your lifetime, what’s, where’s the most memorable place you’ve been and why?

We last year spent. About a month in Tanzania. And there’s a tribe there called the za that I had brought up, I think briefly earlier. And the za are some of the last true hunter gatherers on the [00:50:00] planet. We think like there’s lots of remote places still where people live traditionally. It’s getting less and less, man.

Most people now have cell phones and blue jeans. You can go to like maybe Papa new Guinea or maybe deep parts of the Amazon, or like north Sentinel island or something, if you dare and and find like true. You know, true experiences, authentic experience. Well, let’s say traditional experiences.

They’re all, they’re all authentic, I guess. But these guys, they reject modern technology. For the most part. They don’t want to eat Mago food, like normal people, food. They don’t want to, you use technology. They just wanna hunt in the mornings, eat meat and eat honey. That’s what they wanna do. So we got to hang out with these guys and it’s so.

So it was so powerful to me to meet someone from a life so different than mine. They wake up every morning, laying, sleeping on, on, and under the stars on the, [00:51:00] the, on the dirt. They go hunt with their boys and arrows and they crack open beehives with the bare hands. And they get stung and they giggle and they tell fart jokes and they, they chase each other and they play and they smoke pot.

They , they take like loose leaf or I’ve heard people talk about them, a missionary, try to come give them a. A Bible and they used the Bible pages as, as papers for joints. I tried to confirm that cuz they were using like newspaper and loose leaf. And then yeah, there was a missionary that came here and they’re like, oh, you should believe in our, in our God, the Lord and savior Jesus Christ.

And they’re like, okay. Yeah, sure. But where is he? Oh, he’s up in the sky. Oh, well, when he comes we’ll, we’ll, we’ll think about it, but it tell him to come. And so the, the missionaries weren’t very successful with, with the screwing guys. but you go, and I guess what I’m getting at here is like, where we were raid this baboon camp at night.

And we’re like walking [00:52:00] around in our bare feet, trying to get a baboon with a bow and arrow in the dark. And you just realize we’re all the fricking same man. We’re we’re all. Yeah, so we have different pastimes and activities, I guess, but we all like have the same foundation. We all wanna be appreciated.

We need food and water and we just. To love and procreate and have a family and all this kind of stuff. And we think we’re so different with our languages and religions and, you know, it’s, we’re not, we’re all, we’re all the same. And anything that’s, that’s gross or strange that we think it’s a problem with ourselves.

If you call something gross or weird, because it’s, it’s your problem with an understanding and you know, things in your life, peanut butter can be weird to, to someone else the, this side of the country, right? I don’t know. I guess I just fell in love with the world and how that we’re we all think we’re so different, but we’re all exactly the same everywhere we go.

And I think the question was one of my greatest adventures I kind of got off track again, or [00:53:00] most memorable. It was yeah. Hanging out with these guys hunting baboons. Realizing that we’re all this one giant family of people. And we try to put all these barriers between us language, religion, bullshit like that.

But we’re not, we’re the same man. And the world is kind. Even if some people have assault rifles and charge you in the night. They were kind guys and they apologize and they subscribed so well that’s famous subscribers. Yeah, exactly, exactly. And one of them, one of the guys still watches all my stuff and he popped into the chat cuz people were like, oh, it’s so fake.

You can see his head tour, chat this, this minute, this second. Because I had found it, but I didn’t acknowledge that, I guess. But then one of the police popped in the chat and it’s like, oh no, like we’re so sorry. He’s a good guy with miscommunication. And anyways, it’s really funny stuff, man. Oh, that’s absolutely amazing.

And yeah, as I say, the more you travel, the more you sort of get an understanding of this, the more you suddenly realize that everyone’s the same and everyone [00:54:00] who travels says that. And I think it’s a message that people need to understand, but you have to go there and see it. Yeah. You have to. Mm-hmm kind let the media just dictate what you believe and what you don’t.

Yeah, well, they, in my opinion, they it’s they love fear. Cuz fear keeps you watching and watching makes them money. So if you’re not afraid you’re not watching. So don’t go up there and live your life. Don’t don’t see for yourself. Trust us. We’ve never been there, but we know it’s it’s good. Click bait, click bait is how the world works.

My man and what is next? And how can people follow you in your future adventures? Right now? I’m in LA. Which is a bit uncharacteristic of me, but I was at the Emmys last weekend, the daytime Emmys, because the television show, I was hosting uncharted adventure, which is on the weather channel in the United States.

One hour adventure show. [00:55:00] What got nominated for an Emmy. So we did the fancy red carpet thing, more like a black suit, more comfortable eating bugs in the jungle than on a red carpet. But Hey, do the things that make you uncomfortable. So we didn’t get the Emmy, but just getting nominated in our first season for it was the category was travel adventure and and nature.

So it was such an honor to be there and be recognized in the first season. So we’re starting filming our second season in a couple weeks. We’re doing 11 countries. In 14 episodes, that’ll be the rest of my year, but Hey, I, I have, YouTube’s a place that I started. And so I’ve got four or five new YouTube videos coming up.

There, I just got back from Ethiopia where I did things like scarification with the mercy tribe. The mercy are supposed to be the most dangerous tribe in the world. They run around with like clashing the coughs and. There’s some stories, but again, going back to what we said, you meet the guys they’re freaking rad.

But they do drink cow blood and do scarification, which I [00:56:00] also did both of those things. So I got some scars in my arm, actually. I don’t know if you can see them, but mm they’re right there. Not, lighting’s not very good. Oh, But there was a lot of blood. I also drank some blood cuz that’s what they do.

And so YouTube’s, YouTube’s a fun place to be. you managed, have you managed to get the Ash and the cow dug off? Yeah, exactly. Covered an Ash and cow dug. I, I, I only brought one shirt for a week and my cameramen and my fixer were. Talking about how bad I smelled, but Hey, yo, it’s an adventure. Do you have to have a fresh t-shirt every single day?

I don’t think so. Oh, it’s good. Sun cream as well. Isn’t it that’s exactly it. That’s what I thought. And so I have a podcast as well called against the odds where we tell true travel stories and that’s done with the wander network. So podcast against the odds, YouTube, Instagram fearless and far, and the TV show’s called uncharted adventure.

Amazing. Well for everyone listening, go check it out. It’s. It’s very, very [00:57:00] interesting to watch. And some of the places you go are extraordinary and it’s amazing sort of, you know, adventures that you go on very different from the rest of the YouTubers out there who might play it safe in barley. Yeah. Yeah, no, there won’t be any B or, or best beach of Mexico, but honestly, just to finish it off, my goal is to show the world how interesting it can be.

And also that, Hey, these people that we think are so different are not. And so I will always go do what the locals do. Even if people call me crazy, they often do. Good. I just think it’s a different way of living and there’s no right. And there’s no wrong way. And I’ll always show you the local way, even if it means horrible diarrhea or a little bit of blood it’s I’m in for the I’m in, for the whole, the whole experience, man for the max.

Well, amazing Mike, thank you so much for coming on today. Thank you, John. My pleasure.

Elise Wortley II

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Elise Wortley (adventurer)

On today’s Podcast, we have Elise Wortley. Elise Wortley is an explorer and is going out, recreating the adventures of past explorers. Last year, we had her on the podcast talking about her incredible trip out in the Himalayas recreating the Alexandra David Neel expedition. This time, we are heading to Iran to recreate Freya Stark’s The Valleys of the Assassins expedition.

Today on the podcast, we talk about her story and about the issues she faced while travelling in Iran.

Elise’s Website

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Transcript of our Conversation

Elise Wortley – Valley of the Assassins

[00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to season two of the modern adventurer podcast. I’m your host, John Horsfall. I’m an adventurer and photographer. And each week I’ll be talking with a new guest about their latest adventure from around the world for all the new listeners and subscribers who have joined. I speak to adventurers and explorers who do remarkable things in the field of exploration and endurance.

This is an immersive podcast. So this season, their story is cut to music and cinematic. As we immerse ourselves into the heart of their adventure. My next guest is an adventure who is going out recreating adventures for past female explorers. Last year, we had her on the podcast talking about her incredible trip out in the Himalayas, recreating Alexandra David Neals expedition.

But this time we are heading to Iran to recreate fair stocks, the valley of the assassin. I am delighted to introduce Liz Wortley to the podcast. [00:01:00] Thanks very much. Nice to see you again. Well, lovely to see you too. Well, it’s great to have you back on. We we spoke about a year ago about your epic stories from Scotland to the Himalayas, and then sneakily you went out to Iran to cover another incredible female adventure, which will probably jump into the story in a.

But for people who don’t know you I always like to start at the beginning. Like, who are you? What do you do? And how did you get into this sort of life of adventures? Yeah. Well, I always say a bit of an accidental adventure. Like I didn’t really set out to do this path. But yeah, I basically read a book by a female Explorer when I was 16 and the book really blew my mind because I didn’t know that there were women doing this stuff back in like the early 19 hundreds, late 1800.

I’d only ever been taught about the men or we only really learn about male explorers at school. So [00:02:00] I read this book by Alexandra David Neal, and she was this incredible woman. She was the first woman to meet Western women to meet the Dalai Lama. She traveled for 14 years through Asia. She did this really difficult journey just to sort of learn more about Buddhism and she learn to be him and meditated in a cave for two years.

So her story just completely blew my mind. I was so amazed by her. And then I always had it in the back of my mind that someday I would kind of follow in her footsteps kind of just to sort of te retell her story. Cause everyone I spoke to had never heard of her. And yeah, and then all these years later I sort of ended up doing it and I, I, my expeditions were a bit different to other people is because I actually use what the women had at the time.

And really, I just do this as another way to show how difficult their journeys were. And I would never understand like fully what they went through if I wasn’t in the old equipment. So that’s how it kind of all started. And [00:03:00] yeah, I just did my third expedition because once I’d come back from that first one, I did a lot of research and I found hundreds of women from the past that did all these incredible things that were never really celebrated at the time.

So, yeah. So I’m just kinda working my way through that list. And kind of just shouting about these women that did these really cool things. So the story of this one is Frayer stark for people who don’t know too much about her, how did you sort of come across her and this story? Yeah, so the one, my trip I just did was following in the footsteps of Frayer stark to the valleys of the assassins in Iran and actually Frayer a really interesting one because she was famous at her time compared to the other women, like her books were taken seriously, her expeditions were taken seriously.

She had a lot of like credit, you know, people, she was up there with the guys, but then actually over time kind of nowadays, she seems to have been forgotten. [00:04:00]But this book, the values of the assassins, I always loved. It was one of the first ones I actually found when I started doing all this research into these women.

And it’s just incredible. She’s really funny. I really like that. She really spends a lot of time with the people that she meets. She just kind of fully immerses herself in their world. Like she actually stayed in this area in Iran for years on and off. She had friends there and that kind of gives her more of an insight when she’s writing about the place.

I just always felt this kind of connection to her and yeah, I just always, I mean, the values of the assassins, it sounds cool rice I just always wanted to go there. And finally, after I’ve been trying to organize this all over COVID and it just wasn’t happening. So yeah, finally this year I, I went off and I, I managed to do it.

So for people who are like looking into this, because getting the sort of sponsorship last time we spoke and. Working your way up to this. What was the sort of planning that went into this one? [00:05:00] Because as you’ve sort of done more, it’s becoming more and more of a bigger feature in terms of filming photography.

Yeah. I mean, the filming adds a whole nother element to organization as does this sponsorship. So. Yeah, the project, my project’s kind of really grown over the last year. And yeah, it’s just a case of finding companies that I really love and kind of resonate with the project. And I know that they will bring something positive to the project.

So I always take female guides with me from whichever country I visit because they obviously have the knowledge and I really like to have an all female team while I do these. So it just makes sense for this one to work with Intrepid travel, because they’ve been doing a lot of promotion with female guides around the world, especially in Iran.

So I just wrote to them and they were like really excited about the project, really happy to sponsor it. And then I ended up going with. One of their [00:06:00] female guides, Nadia, who was absolutely amazing. So that kind of came quite naturally. And then I think, because this is quite, this is going to this trip was no one had really been to this area since before the seventies.

No tourists. Anyway. So we decided to make a film because it’s just, you know, people don’t really know much about Iran, especially in the UK or this area of it, especially. So that’s where the north face kind of came in with that funding. Again, it’s gonna be an all female created film in the adventure space, which is quite rare.

So yeah, it just kind of worked out like that, but yeah, it adds a whole nother element of organization. Cuz obviously if it’s just you, it’s just me going. It’s a lot cheaper. It’s a lot easier. It doesn’t matter if things go wrong cuz it’s just me. But then if I have sort of team of three extra people coming.

Just crazy. So actually the organization for this one was yeah, it nearly killed me to be honest. it was a lot. Yeah. And so for people who are unfamiliar with the. [00:07:00] The sort of geography of Iran, whereabouts is this sort of valley of the assassins located. So yeah, so Iran’s absolutely huge something I learned and it’s actually got it’s bordered by so many countries.

So actually all around, you know, each different city has different food, different custom, everything. So the whole place is like an entire world on its own. But actually where we went, we flew into Tiran, which is the capital kind of north. Eastern kind of and then we only drove about three hour, three or four hours out into the desert from there.

And then that’s where the LBOs mountain range starts. So we started in a place called Rasin, which is also where Frayer stark started her journey. And then slowly as you walk up that, that you can literally see the Hills coming out of the desert and they go from really dry sort of Rocky. Beginning slopes to massive green [00:08:00] kind of lush pastures, and then up to sort of really big white kind of peaks.

So yeah, really amazing landscape and quite accessible really from Toran. But once you are in it, it’s very hard to get out unless you’re kind of walking. Yeah. It’s a, it’s a beautiful mountain range. I was there in 2018 up in a place called Disney. Mm. And as you say, some of the most spectacular mountains, you will see, and as you say, it goes on for as far as the eye can see.

So let’s jump into the story and, you know, you’ve flown out to Tiran. You’re about to sort of start this journey. What were the sort of feelings like as you sort of land in Iran? You’ve got your team ready to go. Yeah. I mean, I was saying this the other day, you know, before I went. To Iran. I go loads of, you know, people go, oh, is it right there?

Oh, I don’t think you should go in with camera [00:09:00] equipment or especially not microphones. So actually when the plane landed, I was shifting myself. because we had all these microphones, all these cameras, like wads of cash, because there’s no cash. Like you can’t use the banking systems there, so you have to take everything with you.

So yeah, it was all a bit crazy. And then obviously as a woman, you have to put the head scarf on as soon as pain. So everything I’d never been to a middle Eastern country like that. So everything was crazy. We missed an entire night’s sleep just because of the way that the planes worked. So we literally got off in Iran and it was just insane, but yeah, going through the airport, you know, I was terrified, but I couldn’t have been more welcomed.

You know, it was absolutely wonderful. They were like, oh, welcome what you know, there was absolutely no problem. So you’re sitting there thinking, why is everyone telling me, you know, that this is I’m gonna get rest of having microphone? Like they just don’t care. So, yeah, and then we kind of got everything ready for the trip and Toran.

So ended up on no sleep going around all the markets, which was obviously a huge [00:10:00] assault on the census. And yeah, just kind of started from there and got everything ready and then drove out to Caslin, which is a much smaller kind of city. So that was quite nice after that first night to get out of Toran and it’s actually very polluted Toran as well.

It’s really smoggy when we got there. When you get out into this sort of more mountainous environment, you just realize how wonderfully clean and untouched is. So yeah, they were the first couple of days. So yeah, it was quite quite chaotic, I would say. so driving out to the mountain range and starting, and there was a sort of group of four or three of you guys, four of us.

Yeah. So there was me and then the female film crew. And then we had Nadia who was our guide and translator. And then as we went through the valley, we had different guides kind of for each bit each day who knew the area as well. So that’s how the trip kind of worked. But interestingly, there aren’t any [00:11:00] maps of this area.

I mean, there’s Google maps. And I think there’s a few maps of the mountains, but in terms of like walking trails and things, it’s, it’s never been documented. We really relied on the knowledge of those people who lived there to kind of show us the way. And even then that they said no one had done this exact path since, before the revolution.

So they weren’t sure. So quite a lot of the time we were lost, but I guess that’s kind of part of it. And so when you were lost, what were the sort of problems that you faced on a sort of day to. I think more with the loss, it was just finding the local shepherds. Cuz there’s these shepherds, they have really kind of tough life.

They just live in the mountains, just moving their sheep around. And it’s the shepherds paths that we followed. So when we got a bit lost, you know, everyone kind of has phones these days and like, Hmm, this isn’t very much like Frayer. So the guides be like phoning these random shepherds, like which way, which way.

And the shepherds were also kind, so obviously everyone’s kind of heard about Iranian [00:12:00] hospitality. These shepherds kind of had nothing and they just have like a bit of bread and butter for lunch, and they’d always want us to sit with them and share the food. And luckily we had loads of our own food, so we ended up just kind of sharing and then they’d kind of tell us the way.

And it was really wonderful actually kind of working in that way and being so off grid and just having to talk to people around us to kind of find the way for the listeners. In terms of a sort of day to day, you are walking. With a donkey or are you just walking solo with the four of you? Yeah, so it was us for, and then we had a mule because Freyer’s stark actually is she writes about her mule all the time.

So we had one and it didn’t have a name. So I named it obviously Frayer oh, you and it was the most wonderful creature, so we didn’t ride it or anything. We just kind of had a few bags on it. So yeah, there was us, we, I guess us five were kind of the main team. And then along the way, [00:13:00] We had different guides who were women and men that we met along the way.

And actually by the end, some people had decided they wanted to stay. So our group was a lot bigger at the end than when it started. And then we just stayed in houses as we went along the way, different houses, which is what Fred did as well. So that was amazing. So you say that Iran is sort of, you know, well known for its hospitality.

Can you remember a moment? Along the trip where you are sort of welcomed or a sort of particular moment where it sort of shunned for you? Yeah. I mean, every single night we stayed in a different home and the women of the home would’ve made this incredible meal. So every meal, so breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all the families, they eat together.

Even if someone goes off to work, they’ll come back and have lunch or dinner with the family. And for me, that’s amazing cuz I never really, we don’t do that here. And they were really surprised and they were like, oh, you don’t have breakfast, [00:14:00] lunch and dinner together. As a family. I was like, no, sometimes I just have like a sandwich from the shop for lunch.

They were like, oh no, cause obviously they cook all this amazing, fresh food all from the valley. But every single time we stopped, we were so welcomed and everyone was interested in what we were doing. Yeah, it was just wonderful. Like that’s probably the highlight and everyone shared everything. Like I said, the shepherds that we.

Shed all their food and yeah, it was just really wonderful and houses that we walked past in the day we’d be invited in and we’d have tea and everyone would be so welcoming and so lovely. So yeah, that’s probably the most memorable thing. And the sort of terrain that you were going over, you sort of say that those mountains go from the desert to sort of Rocky to snow caps.

What was the sort of views that you were seeing on a day to day? Yeah, it is amazing how you literally see the mountains growing out of the ground. So when we were actually in the valley, it’s obviously quite low [00:15:00] down, it was quite tricky to get in. So there’s a couple of really tough days where you have to go up and over the past and down into the valley.

But when you’re actually in the valley, which is the valley of the assassins, it’s just full of rice paddies, it’s kind of for the name, it’s actually a really gentle, wonderful, slow paced, kind of. You just kind of walked through the rice paddies, following the river. And then on either side, it’s kind of soaring big mountains up both sides which is really incredible.

And then obviously the days where we were climbing in and out of the valley those views were absolutely insane. Just sort of white peaks everywhere. And then it’s kind of the Caspian seas on the other side of the valley. So when you come out the other end, The landscape’s completely different.

It’s almost like they call it jungle, but it’s more like really lush green trees, different wildlife. So it’s really lovely to come out and then down into that. So yeah, it was absolutely stunning. And like I [00:16:00] say, they, they didn’t get many tourists there, so it’s completely untouched. I don’t think I’ve been anywhere that untouched in my life.

Before there was no litter. There was not really any people. There was just nothing. It was absolutely amazing. Was there a moment where it sort of nearly all fell apart? I mean, yeah. Well, I had this old Burberry coat, if you’ve heard about this Burberry coat, but Frayer stark writes about it a lot in her book.

I think the guides that she has at the time, really like this coat, so they end up taking it quite a bit wearing it. So I was like, I have to get my hands on. And actually a 1930s, Burberry jacket is near impossible to find like anything after fifties and sixties, it’s just not around. And after like months, I managed to find this this coat from this place in like Sheffield, it’s really lovely guy has like a collection of vintage stuff and managed to find this coat.

Obviously, no one had worn it actually out for a really, really long time. Cause it’d been in an archive. So I didn’t know if it was [00:17:00] waterproof or anything like that. So yeah, sometimes it would rain, like, as we got a bit higher up and we were between the kind of cold and the but actually held up.

All right. I think this time it was the boots that were the real challenge. They just completely fell apart. So half the time I was just walking with one boot on one boot on I’m on boot, off on these really slippery kind of mountain slopes. So yeah, the boot fell apart. If, if anything, yeah. . So I imagine you did probably like fair start.

Didn’t take spares. No, I just had those and actually they were the hot topic of conversation sort. Every night, when we arrived at place, everyone would be looking like, oh dear, oh, why, what are you doing? Wearing that? You know, everyone was so concerned and I’d have to kind of explain, oh no, I can’t accept those shoes.

Like, that’s really kind that you offer me those shoes, but I can’t accept. And then, but what I didn’t know was actually one of the guides had bought like called for some super glue. So someone came from somewhere quite far away with this super glue. And I woke up one [00:18:00] morning and they were all sort of gathered around the shoe and they glued it back together and they were so happy.

And I was like, that’s amazing. Thank you so much. And then it actually managed to hold out for the rest of the trip. Yeah. So that’s kind of what happened with the boot, but yeah, it was the talking point of the trip, the. Yeah, I bet. And so as you’ve, how long was this journey and towards the end, as you say, you’re getting towards the end of this trip, sort of moving towards the Caspian sea, what was the sort of feelings like as you’re getting towards there?

Do you know? I, the whole time I was there, I was just thinking, how did Frayer do this without a map? You actually feel quite trapped when you are in, when you’re trying to get out and over, unless, you know, the way you would never have found that path. And she obviously went there. She was mapping the area for the Royal geographical society, as well as so it’s called the valley of the assassins because there was this really old ancient sect called the [00:19:00] assassins that lived there, like a thousand ad.

But they’re known through history because they were so. Kind of ruthless and they managed to keep this stronghold for so long. I think they eventually got defeated by the Mongols, but after a really long time. So like assassins created the video game. It’s like, based on these people, like their legend has kind of lasted time.

So that’s why fre went as well to kind of find their castles. So yeah, so she was mapping the area. So I just kept thinking. Like, how would you even know you’d feel so trapped here, like coming out the other side, because the mountains are so big and the path actually, we took, it was over a, a pass, the Salam pass out the other end.

You’d have never really found that on your own. So I dunno how she did it. But yeah, as we kind of came out and over that, obviously that was really steep, really tough day, but you, you come down the other side and it’s kind. It’s not as hot it’s yeah, really kind of tropical everything’s lush and green and it just feels quite [00:20:00] calming and soothing.

So yeah, it really changed that day. But on the high passes, it was kind of quite Barron but incredible views kind of over the white peaks of that range. Yeah. Really amazing. Was the finishing line sort of towards the CASP sea in terms. Mountains to see peak to see that sort of, yeah. So we got idea.

Yeah. So we kind of went about halfway down into the jungle as a little town called huge. And there’s a picture at the end of phrase. So we did the whole of the chapter, the valley of the assassins. So that’s where she finishes and she’s got a picture of it there. So we actually wanted to try and find this spot where she’d taken a picture.

And we managed to find it, but amazingly, a lot of the other villages, they, people used to live in the mud homes. And then in the valley, they’ve realized like 50 years ago that cherry trees go grow really, really well there. So lots of people have made a bit of money [00:21:00] from the cherry trees. So they’ve upgraded their houses to sort of more modern.

Materials. So a lot of her pictures at the mud houses weren’t there, but in this place in huge, it actually looked pretty much the same as the picture. So it was really amazing to kind of come to that at the end. And then they said that, that side, because a lot of the the young people from the villages kind of go off to the.

Cities for, for work. And they leave the villages that actually a lot of them have got a lot smaller since FRA was there. So they’re almost like the villages are kind of disappearing, which was really sad. So it’s quite interesting looking at this picture and then kind of seeing what it was like now is really changed in some ways.

But yeah, so that was kind of, kind of the end of it. Yeah, and we stayed at this amazing home kind of home there with this woman called NESA, who was kind of really trying. She was doing an amazing job at creating, like home stays that use everything from nature and all around just to [00:22:00] support the families that live there.

And it was absolutely amazing. She made us this fresh bread and everything in her house was freshly made like the butter, the cheese. Yeah, it was quite an incredible place. And so finishing it off with the team, how were they sort of feeling towards the end as well? When you you’d sort of completed it?

Was there a feeling of sadness that you finished or was it a sort of bit more relief? bit of both. I think, I think these things, cuz actually I knew one of the team, but like our director I’d never met before and obviously Nadia I’d never met or any of the guys, but whenever you do this kind of thing, you do create this really special bond.

You probably know this, you kind of end. Being like best mates for the time you’re there. So it is really sad at the end. And it was a really challenging trip in terms of walking. Like we were walking and walking. No one had a map, so one of the guides would say, oh, this will take two hours. You know, like six hours later, we’d still be on this one bit [00:23:00] and I’d be like, but we need to get there.

We’re so far away. So the whole thing was quite challenging. So I think everyone was kind of relieved at the end. I was, cuz I hadn’t really slept, so I’d gone completely nuts. But yeah, it’s, it’s kind of bittersweet, I guess, at the end of these things. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s this sort of incredible story.

And how long were you in Iran before you flew back? Oh, literally like we came back the next day. oh wow. We actually went back to Toran the night after we stayed at that wonderful home stay and I was like, oh my God. Insane because it was so smoggy that like people would go into the malls to get the fresh air and just malls are really not my kind of thing.

And for the film, they also, they, they kept me in the old equipment. I didn’t get my phone back till we landed in the UK. So I was just walking around Toran, like not a happy bunny, still in my boot that was sort of flopping apart. So yeah, it was quite a [00:24:00] weird last night in Iran and I was quite glad to get on the plane.

Yeah, there’s sort of something to be said. I remember like where we used to camp up in the mountains there and they are truly spectacular. Suppose going from that sort of moment of completing the peacefulness in the mountains to the hustle and bustle of those markets is just quite the contrast.

Yeah. And especially in Toran and we had little cameras that we were using and we were, it wasn’t the most social I have to say, and everyone was looking, which is fine, cuz that’s just what happens. But I think, yeah, I just, I just wanted to hide in a hole at that point. But yeah, it was, it was such a contrast to the mountains.

It was insane. Yeah. And those home stays. They. They’re amazing. I always think because it’s sort of very hard. I imagine for people listening to sort of contemplate just how sort of homely they make, those home stays and how [00:25:00] like welcoming they are to strangers. I’m trying to think. I’m trying to think of the name.

They have this thing in Iran. Yeah. It’s called like hoof Hoel. So I, I completely butchered that one, but it’s basically, it’s basically this idea of if you’re kind to strangers, God will look kindly on it. Yeah. Yeah, definitely. And, but they always, like, if you offer something, they always say, no, no, no, no.

Well you have to do it about 10 times. Yeah. Or like, can I help with washing up? No, no, no. Can I ha can I, in the end, you just, you just start and they’re like, oh, thank you. yeah. Yeah. And the amazing thing about our home stays was actually, they weren’t even home stays. They were literally just homes because.

It’s not on a tourist trail. So actually Nadia and the team had sort of organized before with the local families which ones we were gonna stay with. So we got a really sort of. Like rare experience of [00:26:00] not even being with people that were used to hosting tourists. So we’ve got a really sort of in depth view of what life is like there which is really special.

And I don’t think I’ll ever have that again in that way. So I’m so grateful for that. And that was yeah, really, really special. And just the way they all eat together. And everything is shared. I’m actually veggie, but I had, I had to be in a bit of lamb, which is, is quite overwhelming for me, but obviously they, they eat meat in a different way there.

So they’ll have like one tiny chicken for like 12 people and everyone gets a tiny bit of it. And then the rest is kind of the beans and the rice that everything’s local. And I just really love that way of sort of eating you know, meat. It’s like a really special. Thing. And obviously I can’t say no, if someone’s prepared this like special thing and it was actually really nice but yeah, it was just, I really liked that way that all the food was so fresh and they’d grown all that.

It was really cherished. [00:27:00]And I’ve definitely kind of taken that away and I’ll kind of, yeah. I dunno, it was just really amazing. I think one of the things, when we were traveling across that we picked up on was like how awful it would be to be a vegetarian coming to the country. Yeah. it was quite a challenge.

Although I, everything is bread and meat. Yeah, I had bread for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Actually a lot of it, I had a lot of sort of cheese and bread. That was quite good. And then I realized if I delved in myself and said myself, I could almost sort of go round the bits of meat and I was fine with that.

That was fine. But yeah, it was, it was part of it, I think so yeah, they eat a lot of meat. And how did people take, because I always found when I spoke of Iran and the sort of hospitality and the sort of amazing place that it is, I always find that when you speak to people or tell people, they are [00:28:00] completely bemused by what you’re saying, they can’t comprehend it.

And they they’re almost like you’re lying. Like. Yeah. I mean, people here, especially, they only hear one side of it, don’t they? What the news wants to tell us, I suppose. And yeah, you can’t ignore that kind of thing, but that’s just one tiny, tiny part of a country. I’m working in travel for so long.

I know as well, you know that that’s, that’s not the real life for most people there. And actually, you know, you do need to, in a way, support tourism in these countries because they have such negative press. And there’s a lot of other countries that we kind of travel to as Brits that do horrendous things as well.

But yet we never hear about it. I won’t name any of the countries, but one is like the world’s most popular honeymoon destination. But people just hear them, these things, and then that’s it. They never wanna go. But I guess Iran is really, really badly represented in our press for good [00:29:00] reason, but also it’s just one side of it.

So yeah, before I went, people were quite confused as to why I would go there because they just assume everyone’s gonna get arrested and you’ll never come back. Which is not, not how it is at all. But yeah, it’s, it’s a big, you know, I could go on forever about this kind of thing and also supporting after COVID, you know, people are still so messed up in the tourism industry.

Like you need to go to these places and support those people who, you know, run the home, stays and do the driving and do the guiding. Yeah, it’s just another way to look at it, I suppose. But yeah, before I went, it was, yeah, people were quite bemused by my choices. what happened on radio four when you, they heard your story.

Yeah. So I said what I was doing on radio four and they didn’t ask, they just asked me what the trip was. So I just said what the trip was. And then I got loads of emails and messages artists going, how dare you go on radio four and not even talk about the safety aspects and [00:30:00] ignore the, you know, what the government’s doing to all these tourists who are there.

And I just, oh God, it’s like, this is not helpful. this is not helpful for anyone like I’ve done my. I know that it’ll be fine. But yeah, you can’t ignore these things, but also there is a whole nother side to. But yes, so I had all things like that to deal with before I went, which is why, as soon as the plane landed in Iran, I was freaking out

And then, yeah, I couldn’t have been more welcomed. Everyone was so happy to see us. So yeah. I remember explaining to an American woman about this and saying just what an amazing place it was. And she was like, Nope, no, it’s one of the most dangerous places you can go in the. And I, and anyway, this conversation sort of went on with me, trying to explain no I’ve actually been, and there are I’ve actually been there.

So I might know. And then it sort of got to the point of like, and then someone next to her just goes, have you ever been to a branch? She’s like, no, No, I wouldn’t go and that’s the, I actually felt, I [00:31:00] just felt so safe there the entire time. My only wobble was at the airport when we arrived, but only cuz what people had been saying.

I mean maybe if I was a political journalist, I might not have felt the same, but you are not. You’re just someone, you know, and there you are always welcome there. You know, I felt so safe and welcomed the entire time. It is a really, really amazing, fascinating place full of contrasts. I’d say your ups and downs.

Yeah. Yeah. It is funny with that because as you say, like when I arrived, it was very much the same. It was always based on external influences, giving me that fear rather than the actual place itself. Yeah. That’s what happened to me. Definitely. But people, you know, if you watch the news here, you, you, you would think that it’s not necessarily people’s fault.

Yeah. It’s it is interesting when you go and do something yourself and you’re like, I think I put on my Instagram, I actually took [00:32:00] down all the articles I’d ever written and lots of my press, because you have to submit your social media when you apply for your visas. So I was really freaked out and then yesterday I was putting it all back up, just thinking, God, this was so unnecessary and what a waste of time, nobody cares.

You know? So it’s about, yeah, well what an absolutely incredible story. And I suppose Last time we spoke, the idea was to do five and you are probably moving on hopefully this year or next onto the next incredible female adventurer of the past. Yeah. I mean, I’ve got so many, I want to do I, one of the big ones I’d like to do as a pirate queen from Ireland and get a, a group of women to row with me in an old gully boat from west island to Greenwich, which.

It’s definitely possible, but it’s gonna take a lot of organization that she was this really formidable clan leader in Ireland who is kind of from the 15 hundreds. So mainly I [00:33:00] just wanna dress as a 1500 pirate, but she was called grace O’Malley and then there’s also a woman called Z and Neil Hurston.

Who’s more known now as an author, but she actually did a lot of traveling through the Caribbean. In sort of the early 19 hundreds kind of searching for the secrets of voodoo and she just writes about it so beautifully and amazingly, so I’d love to do that. But yeah, there’s, there’s, there’s lots going on loads that I could possibly do.

So yeah, lots organized. Well, it’s an absolutely incredible story. Like the last episode that we had I always ask five questions at the end. Same questions to each guest each week. So the first one is what does it mean to have purpose? Yeah, that’s a tough one because I, I feel like I constantly search for purpose.

I’m never sort of happy, you know, I was never happy with a job in an office and never really felt like, what am I doing? What am I doing? But I actually feel like this [00:34:00] project has given me a bit of purpose now. But yeah, it’s hard. It’s a weird question because actually, if you don’t have purpose and you don’t know what you’re doing with your life, which is what I had for a really long time, it’s really stressful.

So when you do finally have it, it’s quite an overwhelming thing. So for me, it’s been a very confusing thing trying to find purpose in life. But yeah, I think maybe I found it now and it is quite a relief, I suppose. I dunno if that’s a very good answer, but you know, and you’re like, what is my purpose?

Like, what am I doing? What is the point in this and actually this trip to Iran, I really delved into why I’m doing this project, what it is I’m getting out of it, which I, I realize is almost like this sort of therapy for me. I, I didn’t actually mention this, but yeah, I had really bad panic attacks, like all through my twenties to the point where it really affected my life.

Like I’m still on medication for it now. [00:35:00] And I actually find that this project is like therapy for me. And then maybe now this is my purpose because it’s helping me, but hopefully I can help others as well by kind of sharing that story. So yeah, I think it’s really important to have purpose, but also not to stress out.

Like I used to, if you don’t think you’ve found it yet, because that was, you know, it might take a while. I don’t know if that was a good answer or not, but there you go. No, it was like because as you say, you spoke last time about that. And I was sort of going to ask whether your anxiety has alleviated drastically by fulfilling this sort of adventure, whether adventure is almost curing the anxiety.

Yeah. People always ask me that and I’m not sure. I, I think it’s like a combination of lots of things. It’s kind of getting a bit more confident, generally feeling better because [00:36:00] the problem I had was that it was completely out my control. So I would start getting really shaky, really dizzy, like physical symptoms that I just couldn’t control.

And I think it’s actually, oh, cause I’ve had it for like 10 years now. Sort of going on, like medication has really helped me get back to kind of where I was, but, and without that, I wouldn’t have been able to really do these trips, but also these trips and putting myself in these situations at first, I didn’t think it was doing anything cuz I’d come back and I’d be really sort of overwhelmed and constantly shaking constantly in sort of panic.

But over the years, cuz I’ve kind of been doing this for about three and a half years now. It’s definitely, I can see, I’ve got more confident. I can see that I actually love going and doing these things now as before it would terrify me. So I think it’s kind of combination of everything. But yeah, and now when I, I do think these have made me kind of grow as a person.

So yeah, I think it has, I think the [00:37:00] adventure has helped, so yeah. So that’s why it’s kind of like a therapy, I suppose. Putting myself through these things. Just to see what I can do, I suppose. Yeah. I always think these sort of adventures give one self, you know, confidence in so many other aspects of life.

And it was quite interesting. I was just intrigued to sort of see whether doing these adventures, pushing yourself into these incredibly uncomfortable situations. Busted shoes, running, walking over the Iranian mountains would have maybe alleviated it slightly. Yeah. And I think it has definitely, but it’s taken time.

Like I thought after the first trip it would happen immediately. I thought if I can do this. I’ll be cured. I’ll never be nervous or shy or have a panic attack ever again. Obviously that’s not how it works. But definitely over time, it really has. And yeah, so I think it’s, that’s yeah, that’s kind of the purpose there.

And it’s also kind of shouting about these [00:38:00] women and. Kind of saying to other people, you know, if they could do that then, and I can do it now in the old clothes, like the way I am. Like, you can have any little adventure that you want, you know, it doesn’t have, I always say you don’t have to like walk through the layers with a chair on your back to have an adventure.

It’s just, I’m just kind of showing that, you know, you can do these things, so yeah. So hopefully other people will get something out of it as well. Yeah, absolutely. And what about your favorite quote? Has that changed since last. Oh, what was it last time? Was it Alexandra David ne I think it could well have been, I vowed to show what the will woman can do.

I think that was it. I I’ve got another one actually that Alexandra I’ve actually got it on my wall. And it’s who knows the flower best? Is it the one who reads about it in a book or who finds it wild on the mountain side? And I really love that one because it reminds me a bit of Iran as well.

Like you never actually know something truly. Until you do it and you see it for yourself. And that’s what I really got with this trip. I kept [00:39:00] thinking of that quite because like we were talking about, you know, people who have never been, they don’t know. So they can’t really comment. So yeah, I feel like I know it now properly.

What about your favorite travel book and why. Oh, well, I’ve got lots now. So obviously the first book I read my journey to LA the valley of the assassins. But yeah, but you know what? There is one that is totally unrelated. Have you ever heard of Gerald Darrell? No. He’s, he’s got a book called my family and other animals.

And actually this was the book when I was really young, that kind of got me into nature and the outdoors. So that’s kind of on the side, cause obviously I’ve got loads of travel books by all these women that they wrote back in the day. But yeah, my family and other animals is a really amazing book by Gerald Darrell.

He’s the zoologist. I think he’s got a zoo in Jersey still. But he’s died, but I think the zoo’s still going. Oh, amazing. Really funny. And [00:40:00]why are these adventures important to you? Oh yeah. Well, I think we’ve sort of covered that. Haven’t we yeah. Yeah. I think it’s just, it’s giving me a purpose and it’s helping me understand my life and yeah, I think.

Showing, like I said, showing that these women could do that back then, you know, and all they had is a photograph and they didn’t have any phones or internet to know where they were going. Now that’s pretty brave. And if I can do it today in that old stuff then anyone can kind of do anything I suppose.

So I think that’s the whole message of, of the, of the project, I suppose. Yeah. And in your lifetime, where’s the most memorable place you’ve been and why? Oh, well, , I think this last trip’s probably the most memorable for a lot of reasons. Although I was kind of so tired the whole time. I don’t really know if I knew what was going on fully any of the days.

But I actually, I went to India when I was [00:41:00] 16, so it was quite young going from Colchester to India. And I just remember being like completely, completely blown away by this world that I’d walked into. So that actually got me into travel. And that’s why I sort of ended up working well, I did a fine art degree, so I couldn’t get a job obviously after that.

So then I started working in travel, but it was because of that first trip to India, I was just, you know, like there’s a whole nother world out there. Like it was such a different culture and amazing place. So I think it was that trip. That was probably my most memorable. Yeah, it’s funny. Like when I sort of look back those mountains in Iran would probably go down as we had a day where we hiked up for seven hours from Disney all the way to the top.

Couldn’t quite get to the top because avalanches were fully left right. And center from the top. And then we went down and it took like [00:42:00] two minutes to get down after seven hours or eight hours hiking. And I just remember thinking. And like terrible conditions. It was a thunderstorm, but the whole sort of journey and the whole experience of climbing those mountains will always go down as probably one of the most amazing days of my life.

Yeah. That sounds incredible. I mean, those mountains are just, I’ve never seen mountains. Like it almost didn’t look like Switzerland, but just like rolling green Hills and then these like, Crazy peaks. It, it was just so picturesque. It was I’ve. I just didn’t expect it to look like that, but yeah, that sounds amazing.

Yeah. Skiing and run and what is next and how can people follow you in the future? So I’m actually in a few weeks, actually, I’m going to Scotland to recreate a journey by Jane Clark and she set up the women’s Scottish climbing. [00:43:00] And there’re these amazing photos of her in like long skirts and hats and these little high heel shoes from 1908 where they’re climbing.

And they basically set the club up cuz they weren’t allowed in the men’s one. So I’m actually going in a few weeks to kind of recreate a couple of their sort of climbs hopefully with some women from the club. So that’s coming up and. Yeah, got I’ve got lots of ideas in my head for later on in the year, so let’s see.

But yeah, you can follow me Instagram at women with altitude. Yeah. And that’s kind of where I post everything. So mainly on there, and I’ve got a website which is women with attitude.com. Amazing. And this film valley of the assassin. Yes. When will that be out? Yeah. Yeah, so that film we’re hoping for the end of August.

So then we’re gonna maybe put it into film festivals and things like that. Try and sell it to a platform or something, but yeah, if you follow [00:44:00] my accounts, then you’ll see when the film’s out. But yeah, that’s super exciting. Can’t wait for that to come out. Well, that sounds absolutely amazing.

I’m sure people listening will follow through and check it out. Amazing. Yeah. Thank you so much. Well, thank you so much for coming on again and yeah, we’ll have to have your on for your next adventure where next always a pleasure. thank you. Amazing. Thank you so much. Yeah, you too, John. Thanks so much.

Thank for listening. I hope you enjoyed the show and don’t forget to subscribe and review the podcast. If you’re listening on apple, a massive thank you to those who reviewed. And I hope to see you next week for another fascinating tele adventure, but till then have a great day wherever you are in the world and happy adventures.

Toby Nowlan

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TOBY NOWLAN (film-maker)

Toby Nowlan is an award-winning journalist, explorer and biologist who produces wildlife documentaries. For the past four years, he worked on BBC1’s A Perfect Planet, a five-part series narrated by Sir David Attenborough.

Review the Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-modern-adventurer-podcast/id1535779210

On the podcast today, Toby Nowlan shares his passion for the fight to save the critically endangered Javan rhino from extinction.
We go with him on a mission to find one of the rarest animals on Earth, the Javan rhino. An opportunity rarely granted to Westerners to track these incredible animals in their natural habitat.

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Transcript of our Conversation

Toby Nowlan

[00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to season two of the modern adventurer podcast. I’m your host, John Horsfall. I’m an adventurer and photographer. And each week I’ll be talking with a new guest about their latest adventure from around the world for all the new listeners and subscribers who have joined. I speak to adventurers and explorers who do remarkable things in the field of exploration and endurance.

This is an immersive podcast. So this season, their story is cut to music and cinematic. As we immerse ourselves into the heart of their adventure. My next guest is an award-winning journalist Explorer and biologist who produces wildlife documentaries for the past four years. He’s worked on, BBC’s a perfect planet, a five part series, and narrat rated by said David Abra on the podcast today.

He shares his passion for the fight to save the critically endangered Jarvin rhino from extinction. We go with him on his mission to [00:01:00] find one of the rarest animals on earth, an opportunity rarely granted to Westerners, to track these incredible animals in their natural habitat. I am delighted to introduce Toby Neyland to the podcast.

Thanks very much, John. It’s great to be here. Well, it’s an absolute pleasure to have you on, and I cannot wait to sort of get into this story. I listened to your story back in, I think, November of last year and. When I heard it, I, I knew I had to get you on. And with this new format, I think it’s gonna be absolutely incredible.

But before the podcast starts, I always like to ask you to tell the audience who you are and what you do and how you got into this sort of life of adventures. Sure thing. Well I work in, in TV and film. I make natural history documentaries, wildlife, documentaries. I’ve done that for, for the last eight, 10 [00:02:00] years.

But long before that, I, I, I, I. Have spent most of my life trying to find a way to go in search of some of the world’s rarest and most endangered animals out there. And as soon as I had the, the means to, to try and make that happen, I, I, I. I did so, so I started to lead research expeditions when I got to university and look for ways to fund those expeditions and recruit teams to come with me.

And so there, there were, there were lots of different expeditions that, that I took out. And yeah, that, that was, that was the, kind of the basis of, of, of the most recent expedition, which was to look for the Jarvin rhino. ah, amazing. And so what made you sort of get into this sort of life? What was it from a young [00:03:00] age that had you sort of hooked on the jar rhino or this sort of wildlife stories as you or documentaries?

Yeah, well, in, I remember watching planet earth, David Attenborough’s planet earth on, on the BBC when I was God, how? I mean, it was 20. 2011. No, it was, it was a long time ago. I can’t remember when, when planet earth was first broadcast, but it was a long time ago and I was a kid. I was looking on the screen.

I just remember thinking God, that looks like the best job in the world. I’d love to do, to do that. I’d love to work on that. So it was always this sort of festering ambition in my head. To try and make it happen. And I knew that Bristol was the, the global hub for it, the green Hollywood, where it kind of all happened.

So I, I had to try and sort of base myself nearby and keep petitioning people to try and work in the industry, but going back, I mean, I, I, I’ve kind of, I’ve always, [00:04:00] always, always been into to animals and the outdoors and it, and, and looking for. Birds and bees and bugs in the garden has always been a, a mad obsession of mine.

And I’ve always been really, really into all things. Wildlife I’ve been mega geeky about it for most of my life. I used to volunteer with the RS P B when I was 13 and that really. Got me going, got me into the, kind of got me into the bird world and got my first binoculars and, and started birding.

And that built into more and more exciting things, further afield. And when I got to Edinburg university, I discovered the expedition club and they helped encourage you to find a way to organize your. Research expeditions and that’s where it all kicked off really. And for the Jarvin rhino, that was another very special thing, cuz that, [00:05:00] that all started when I picked up this second, I’ve got this thing about natural history books, about wildlife books.

I just, everywhere I go, every. Kind of, you know charity book sale. I, I, I see, I go past, I have to grab something natural history. So I’ve got a house completely full of all these amazing natural attributes, most of which I never read, but I just . I love having them around and flicking through them. And one of the ones that I picked up from.

One of these these kind of backyard sales was this book called last of the wild by photograph photographer called Eugene Schumacher. And within it is that’s UJA, cuon this giant forest that they call it the forest of giant palms. And it’s this forest where everything underneath it, all the animals are just dwarfed by these enormous plants.

And it’s an amazing place. [00:06:00] Anyway, I just found it amazing to see this a, a rhino, a rhinos in a deep jungle like this, and it just set up this thing in my head as this kind of mythical mammal that I, I really wanted to go in search of. So. It, it sort of never left my head. And then one day I thought, you know what?

Screw let’s, let’s, let’s start a plan to, to head out and look for the Jarvin rhino. And so how long did this plan take? I mean, between seeing that photo between getting out the door was I guess, best part of 20 years, but. In terms of actual planning, I’d say it was ki, it was kind of two, two or three years of sort of getting everything together.

I mean, the, the idea of what to actually do for the expedition came from earlier expeditions I’d led with to look for other [00:07:00] endangered species to use a, a similar method of data collection, photo identification, which can be a really effective way to survey. Critically endangered, very rare animals. So that’s what we, we used for the vaquita PPU in the sea of Cortez, Mexico.

It works really well with Marine mammals and I thought it could work really well with rhinos and turns out it did. So for context for people who don’t know much about the jar and rhino, it’s sort of based out in a very remote island of Indonesia. Can you sort of explain a bit more about that?

Sure. Well, actually the island itself, isn’t actually remote. It’s in, it’s on that’s the most amazing thing about it is the entire population is on the island of Java, which is the the most densely populated island on the planet by quite a long way, which is just crazy. There’s I mean, [00:08:00] it’s got the iron, it’s got the city of Jakarta on it.

There’s 121 million people on it. And. At the same time in the bottom left Southeast Southwest corner. There’s this tiny little peninsula, UJA Cuan peninsula. And it’s one of the last true, great wildernesses in Indonesia. It’s this extraordinary forest. And it still has its sort of. Post ice age, mega Forner still intact.

It hasn’t been, they haven’t been hunted out. So part of that are these, the Jarin rhino Jarin rhinos. And the other thing of these, these Banting Buffalo, these very rare wild Buffalo that live in the jungle as well. And so you’ve got this incredible juxtaposition in Java of the, of pure wilderness and extra, extraordinarily high [00:09:00]population centers.

And I found, I always found that amazing that you could have, you know, You know, jungle rhinos living on, on an island in Indonesia in this day and age just found, sounded amazing. So taking you three years from the sort of concept to getting out there. Well, let’s, let’s jump into the story. So you were sort of there on your sort of first day, you flew into Jakarta and then probably took the long road all the way down to this peninsula.

Yes exactly. So you get to Jakarta overnight in Jakarta, then head all the way down to UJA cuon. Then we would overnight in a very small village near the entry to the park. And then we would head deep, deep into Jean Cuong and towards the the rhino protection. And [00:10:00] this is a very special area that not many people are are allowed to go to.

So it takes a long time to get permission to go there. Very expensive permission to go to this park. Rightly so of course, of, of the park. So it’s, it’s a day long walk through the jungle. So we’re winding our way through these very narrow tracks all day, all long, all you know, all day to, to get to this path of Asian KU long.

And then you are, you are along this incredibly long Sandy beach. It’s, it’s, you know, it’s, it’s all along the coast there, that jungle. So Very wild coast. So, so even when you’re in the jungle, you, a lot of the time you’ve got the sound of big breakers, but, you know quite close by because it’s this very wild CLO coast that just the ocean is unbroken all the way to Antarctica.

So you’ve got these big [00:11:00] breakers that just rolling and And I, I mean, the jungle is hot and sticky and sweaty and wonderful as though that’s why I love it. It’s a very intense place to be. And new John cuon is no exception. It’s a, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a heavy. Going lowland jungle with lots and lots of mosquitoes and quite high malaria.

And so you have to be careful, but it’s, it does, you know, it’s, it’s got its bugs, it’s got all, its the, the normal jungle things. So we arrived next to a small a little river that came off a, a lagoon, big coastal lagoon where we planned to camp. We arrived there at. Late in the evening and pitch camp pitched hammocks between small trees and litter fire and planned to head [00:12:00] off on the river in search of the rhinos at about 4:00 AM the next day.

And actually that night even within 24 hours stuff started to happen in quite an extraordinary way. Really. So. Went to sleep to all the sounds, the night sounds of the jungle, you know, the, the, the tinkling of frogs and cigars night jars and owls. And I drifted off into sleep knackered from travel, of course, and just, and woke up at about 4:00 AM with a start.

And to this sudden sort of thumping sound outside. Outside my hammock. It was like this kind of mini stamped, really loud crashing through the jungle, very close to our camp. And so soluary eyed kind of ran outside and [00:13:00] went to see Chelo who was one of our top trackers sitting by the fire kind of dazed looking sort of shocked and uneasy.

So I started talking to him. He like, oo what’s what’s happened. And he basically that night he’d gone onto the beach to just sleep to light, to fire on sleep. And I don’t think anyone had been to this part of Eugene KU for a long time. So we were the first humans there for quite a while. I think.

So change lit, lit small. And then he’d woken up with a start in the middle of the night to essentially see a rhino standing over him, snorting looking at him and not knowing what he, what he was very confused. And the rhino got closer and closer realized that Chelo was, was. [00:14:00] Something suspicious, possibly human snorted and just ran off with the start.

And Chenu was absolutely terrified. And essentially what had happened is the rhino had seen Cheng Lu’s fire on the beach and been drawn out of the forest. This is our theory in, just by curiosity, swam across the big coastal lagoon that separates the beach from the forest. You know, just to try and come and check out what the fire is, swam across the lagoon, climbed up onto the beach and walked over to oo and looked over at him.

And bear in mind, these animals are extremely shy and were barely seen in the wild for about 50 years. So, so it’s, it’s. You know, that kind of behavior is just amazing. So it was tantalizing to hear this. And I mean, obviously very scary for, for oo, but, but also to think my God would’ve [00:15:00] already come that close to a German rhino or night one, and I went down to the beach that morning and could see these fresh prints.

These fresh footprints going along the beach towards where tangles had his fire. And it was amazing. You could just see these very clear, huge toads of rhinos. So that was, that was an exciting start. How long had it been since in the jungle? Before you had actually seen your first rhino. It actually happened on, it actually happened pretty quickly.

It was within, it was within the first week that we had our first sighting. We then had about best part of two weeks of nothing because of the rain largely. And our camp was unusable and we couldn’t really get on the river cause the water levels were too high. And when we could. There was no evidence of rhinos.

I think it was too high for the rhinos. There was just too much, there was just [00:16:00] too much water. There seems to be a happy medium that they liked. So we had our first sighting pretty quickly within, I think, within the first week, but then there were kind of gaps after that long gaps before the next one.

And then when the conditions were just right then we had this wonderful cluster of sightings and there were. Three days where we saw two different rhinos at least one of them every day, which was extraordinary, really, to be able to see the rarest large land mammal on the planet with that degree of regularity was such a treat.

I mean, was there a moment during that trip you know, where you felt it would might all fall apart? well, you know, when it lashed it down with rain for two weeks. Well, to be honest, that first night with oo in the, on the, when he was on the beach and the rhino came after him, that was pretty . It was [00:17:00] pretty good.

Nothing happened that night on night one, but then I think about two weeks in cause as I said, these canoes are inflatable and, and, and I mentioned this, this jungle is just. Completely Chaka with spiny palms. So as you go up these waterways, you’ve got these hu huge dangling spiny fros, just hanging, draped all over, all over the channels.

And you’re kind of clearing your way through them. Of course, always nervous about the inflatable canoe underneath. because there are a lot of saltwater crocodile there. They, they love the area. It’s very easy for them to get into these rivers. They weren’t huge CROs, but there were plenty of them. And and at one point we were a couple of miles up and suddenly one of the, one of the canoes [00:18:00] just.

Just burst, essentially. It just got, got caught on a thorn and, and started taking on water pretty quickly. So we had quite a frantic paddle, quite a frantic couple of hours paddling back to camp before one boat was completely, you know, over sunken and left, left for CRO food. That was probably the most nervous.

and so you are paddling frantically. Wow, God. And so how many for this sort of audience, how many were sort of in a bait at the time? Was it just two of you on each boat? Two of us. Exactly. There were two trackers and there were two of us, myself and my friend, Kyle MC, Bernie, who was filming the expedition.

So I was, I was getting the images for the photo ID and, and Kyle was making a film about it. So we each were in a kayak with, with a tracker. [00:19:00]I mean, we were amazingly quiet actually, as we drifted upstream, it was. It, it was, it did work very, very well until the boat burst and, and you start taking your water and then it, then it all back for us.

But we patched it up when we got back to shore. It never really fully recovered, but enough for us to, to head out, keep heading out and just keeping an eye on it. wow. And so towards the end of the. And maybe the last time that you paddled out to see the rhinos one last time, what happened? The final encounter we had was the best one without a doubt.

The final encounter we’d, we’d drifted around a couple of corners. It was near the sort of middle of the day. The heat was really starting to build then it was kind of. [00:20:00] Nine or 10. I remember a lot of monkeys around jumping over the, over the channels at that point. And I sort of think we think we’re done for the day and then we round this corner and then, then again, getting the shoulder tap and meter had seen this thing in front of us and we just kind of.

Stop paddling and just drift and you just see this incredible purpleish pink. They were an amazing color. They’re sort of hippo colored really sort of deep purple and this big male rhino just. Just holding itself there in the water with its chin on the mud, on the riverbank. And he was just sort of dozing and, and farting and puffing and snorting and [00:21:00] and we watched him and drifted closer and then he kind of had a little.

Dip and a bath and washed his head a few times. And we, we were really close. I mean, we were within, we were within 10 meters. The, the rhino just kind of kept coming closer and closer and cuz their eyesight’s te pretty terrible most rhino species. Eyesight’s terrible. So as long as you are. As long as you are the right wind direct, you know, the right side of them in terms of wind and they can’t hear you.

You’re super quiet, then you’ve got a good chance of just being undiscovered. And I assume that was what was happening because we just had this most incredible hour long encounter with this male as he did his thing and I just rattled. A load of pictures. [00:22:00] And he became the star of the show really?

And it was wonderful. It was just what it was. It was, I mean, the, the trackers were at great pains to say this was in their opinion. The longest recorded encounter with the Jovan rhinos in the wild. It was, it was, it was a super special encounter. And it was really, really important for the expedition because we could get, I could get such close, detailed images of the horn and of the skin folds around the rhino face around the cheeks, around the eyes.

And it, it was just really easy after that to be able to compare. Other rhinos we’d photographed and, and see, oh yeah, we’ve seen this rhino on this day and this day and this day, and that was a bit of a game changer as well, because the trackers had assumed because they hadn’t obviously been taking detailed photos like these.

They’d been [00:23:00] limited to camera traps before these expeditions. That was the whole point of the expedition. They’d assumed that if you encounter a rhino on the river, then. It gets so disturbed from the area, cuz they’re so sensitive that it will leave the area and not come back for a long time. And if you see a rhino again, that’ll be a whole new.

Individual moving in that you would then be disturbed again and moved away. But these images were showing that these were repeat rhinos that we were seeing. So they were not being as, as disturbed as we were expecting. So they were, they were coming back to, to rest and, and, and wash and bathe in the river.

Regardless of their previous encounter, regardless of their previous disturbance. So that was really interesting and it showed, it indicated perhaps there are fewer than people were thinking before in terms of using those river right [00:24:00] areas. But also just perhaps the less sensitive locally to disturbance than we than had been assumed.

What was the sort of feelings like when you sort of got back to camp from there and the sort of feelings when you left after experiencing, you know, this incredible. You know, expedition and you set out and you achieve, if not more than you had ever hoped it was ex it was completely euphoric. It, it was absolutely E I mean, it was, it’s very cliche to say it was it’s a dream come true, but it really was.

It really was, it was just hard to sort of contain my joy or our joy. It was electric, the feeling in the camp after we’d got these, had this first encounter, got these first images and then it got better and better. And the joy just sort of built and, and [00:25:00] it was, it was just, it was remarkable. I remember the first time when I first clapped eyes on one that, that sort of really dark.

The one in the darkness there and in, in, you know, early, early morning. And I, I remember just finding it really hard to believe what I was looking at and thinking you know, your, your eyes don’t quite allow your brain to process it in the, you just, you I’d searched for them for so long and hoped to see one for so long.

And it was such. A dream and all the work that had gone into it to, to make it happen. And then it was sort of unfolding in front of me. There was this gorgeous, very gentle beast, just having his early morning bath in front of us. It was, it was absolutely absolutely wonderful. Yeah. I’ll never forget it.

Wow. What an incredible [00:26:00] sort of story. And have you got any plan to sort of go back out there again? Yeah, I do. I do. I was I had plans for every year afterwards, but I was there in 2020. I was there in third, 2020. So just as the COVID pandemic was starting to, to take effect. And so I had plans to go back.

That year, and obviously they got canceled and then the following year, and they got canceled and the year after that and they got canceled, Indonesia’s only just opened up. So the, the opportunity has returned to go back to Jean cuon. But I’m about to descend deep into a year long edit for my current film work.

So it’s gonna have to go on hold for a little bit, but yes, I absolutely want to go back for sure. And with this little peninsula at the [00:27:00] bottom of Java. I know that I, I think there’s sort of talk of Java being moved as a capital. Is there a fear that this little peninsula could be threatened by writing T levels?

I, I actually, I don’t know. I don’t know if I don’t. I mean, it could be, it could be. I mean, it’s on, it’s all extremely low level. There’s always been. A really high tsunami risk. There. There’s always been a lot of fear about about the peninsula being washed away and the, the rhinos being seriously affected by tsunami because the peninsula is really low lying.

So. Sea level rise could affect it. Theoretically and completely the same way. I haven’t heard much on the ground. Talk about specifically sea level rise [00:28:00] affecting UJA the same way. I don’t know if it’s because the jungle itself Offers some level of protection. I dunno. I don’t know, but in terms of tsunami risk and it being low level you know, it’s, it’s really, it’s the stones throw from cracker to crackow is almost with sight.

It’s the closest land to cracker to. So it was hit, it was affected by tsunami a couple of years ago. I think the right, I think, I can’t remember how. How the rhinos fared in that? I, I know it wasn’t catastrophic for them, but there was a small enough tsunami to take out some of the jungle. So that is a, that is a fear.

There’s been talk of airlifting capturing some of the rhinos, airlifting them out, plunking them on an offshore island as a kind of backup reserve population, a new founder population. I think that plan was abandoned. I [00:29:00] know it was abandoned. I, I don’t think it’s been resumed or gained traction again because it’s a sort of double edged sword for the jar rhino because it, it lives in this incredible habitat.

That’s very intact and you know, there’s an invasive Palm. But apart from that, it, it, it’s, it’s really an excellent quality. It’s an excellent Nick. All of the different niches are, are acting as they should. The, the forest foreigner is, is, is in really great shape and it’s very hard for poachers to reach because it’s well protected.

It’s a peninsula, it’s almost an island. There’s heavy poaching patrols, and it’s very dense. It’s very difficult to navigate into But the, all of the German runners are in one place. So you’ve got all 72 remaining jar rhinos in one single forest, [00:30:00] which is great in that they can find each other and they’ve got a home that’s in of great quality.

And they’re all connected. So it really minimizes the risk of inbreeding and the, the, the bad effects that has on genetics, diversity of, of small populations. But it does mean. It does expose them to being very vulnerable to, to single risks and single incidents. Like you touched on there, be it sea level rise, be it tsunamis, be it you know, any big natural disaster, be it disease outbreaks.

So there’s always that fear with the jar, right. One big thing. And that would, could spell disaster as it stands. They’re increasing, actually, they’re doing really well in this little forest that they, this well, relatively small forest where they’re remaining. So The last camera trap images from a few years back showed a new [00:31:00] calf, which bumps the population up to 72, which is extraordinary.

So I, I think the thinking is that they there’s nowhere left for them to go outside of that. So they’re probably at capacity. You probably can’t squeeze anymore jar rhino territories into that forest. But they’re, they’ve filled it up as, as, as best they can, as you know. So I think the population is doing relatively well.

Yeah, that, that was actually my question for the audience who probably dunno just how rare these rhinos are. There are only 62 or yeah, 62 odd recorded sightings or different numbers. So just wanted to sort of pinpoint that as just to show how rare these ma these mammals. they’re super, super rare.

Yeah. They, I mean, we didn’t really realize how many there were. For a long time. So there used to be until [00:32:00] 2011, they were in Vietnam as well. There was a small population up there, different subspecies and they, the last one was poached there in 2011. The last one was found decapitated, sadly, and that spelt the end for the Vietnamese Jarvin rhino, which meant all the remaining Jarvin rhinos only solely found in Jarver of which we know there’s we think there’s 72.

Remaining, but they used to be, they used to be extremely widely distributed back when unbroken forest covered. Most of Asia, they used, used to find them from India up through Northern China, across all of Southeast Asia, they had this, they enjoyed this massive distribution. And then slowly as the world changed and, and humanity spread across the globe that habitat was eaten away at and then came in trophy hunting [00:33:00]and then they were hunted for food.

And then there was a lot of war in those regions and that took its toll on the, both the rhinos and the forest. And then. It’s only really the last 40 years that the, the poaching E epidemic has, has taken hold. And that’s, what’s driven the, the Jarvin rhino to the very edge of extinction. And I’m sure everyone knows a lot, you know, plenty about the, the international poaching trade, but.

The rhinos are hunted for their, for their horn which is predominantly made of keratin, which is the same chemical protein, which is in fingernails and hair, human fingernails, and hair. They’re hunted for their horn and it has been for various uses, but currently the biggest uses is for for parties in China.

[00:34:00] And it’s used as a kind of a hangover cure, both a party drug and a hang hangover cure. It’s kind of ground into a liquid and, and just drunk as a hangover cure. I don’t imagine it works. But that’s, that’s, what’s, that’s, what’s been driving them to the very edge and is still driving them to the very edge and, and means that their situation is still extremely precarious.

You said though that the females don’t have the horns, do you think that’s probably one of its successes? Why they haven’t? I mean, they’re so close to extinction, but do you think that’s maybe something that’s helped? I, I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think so. I don’t think, I think the rhinos are hunted regardless.

And you know, if, if a, if a, if a rhino is hunted without a horn, They, they might not, you know, I I’m I’m, I, I would bet that poachers wouldn’t know that until the rhino’s dead in front of them. [00:35:00] And at that point they, you know, it would just be bad luck for them that they, they would have a rhino with no horn, but the females actually, they don’t have a horn, but I.

I believe there’s still a, a bit of, there’s a sort of N in there there’s a kind of, just a sort of basal part of a horn. They don’t have an actual horn, so to speak. I mean, the Mayo horns are, are tiny. The, this, this is a species it’s one of the only two species on earth to have one horn in common with the Indian one horn rhinos.

And the one horn they do have is. Is very small, you know, it’s usually around 10 centimeters. So it’s, it’s really, it’s nothing like the big horns of the black and white rhinos of Eastern Africa, Eastern to Southern Africa. It’s nothing like that. So the, the. The yeah, the kind of rewards for a poacher, a minuscule.

So is it’s remarkable really, but, [00:36:00] but it’s ex you know, it’s extremely valuable. It’s still rhino, rhino horn is still the most valuable commodity on planet earth. It’s, it’s still more valuable than gold diamonds and silver than any, any Jew gram for gram. Yeah. Toby. It’s been absolute pleasure, like listening to your stories.

And it’s just incredible to sort of hear about, you know, there’s such a rare species, but there’s a part of the show where we always ask the same five questions to each guest each week. And the first one being, what does it mean to have purpose? Hmm, that’s a very good question. I mean, I, I, I think for me, I mean, it, I guess that’s a very subjective question, isn’t it?

It it’s it’s gonna be different for everyone. I, I, I think we live in a, we live in a, [00:37:00] in a world of, of great environmental crisis and We’ve been in a state of biodiversity crisis for as long as I’ve been alive, but it’s never been more pressing and never been more important and more urgent for us to address than now.

So, and, and I think that’s, I think the biodiversity crisis in, in hand with our cl the climate crisis is for me the most pressing of all things on planet earth. And I think, you know, if we don’t sort our environmental woes out, then we, we are not, we’re not gonna, we’re not gonna last. We’re not gonna survive.

We’re not going to be able to live in the world. We want to live in. Our species and almost any other. So for me being able to [00:38:00] do and go on these incredible adventures has to meaningfully in some way, contribute towards, go some way towards Helping that and helping remedy that crisis. And that might be in part through collecting relevant data and also might be in part through trying to raise as much awareness as possible about specific issues and inspire motivation in other people to, to, to make change as well.

And that’s that’s as that’s as important as it gets for me. Ah, amazing. And what about your favorite quote? This is a quote from Henry David Thoreau, Walden or life in the woods. We need the tonic of wildness at the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things. We require that [00:39:00] all things be mysterious and unex explorable that land and see be indefinitely wild UN surveyed, and unfathomable by us because unfathomable, we can never have enough of nature.

And that kind of that sums it all up for me. What about your favorite travel book and why? My favorite travel book? Yes. My favorite travel book is into the heart of bono by Redmond Hanlon. It’s it’s it’s this wonderful. Romp through the Bian jungle in search of the SUMAR and rhino, actually it’s very, it’s not far off.

It was actually one of the, one of the inspiring books for me to go in touch the Jarin rhino, but I’ve read this book. Three or four times, and it it’s just written so well, and it’s very funny and it captures all the wonderful details of [00:40:00] living with people in the jungle, in bono and traveling through the Bian jungle.

And I’ve spent a lot of time in bono and in Malaysia and in Indonesia. And I, I absolutely love it. And it’s very easy, easy for me to connect with that. Incredibly rich and exciting part of the world by diving back into that book. So I, I absolutely love that. Nice. Why are these adventures important to you?

I mean, the, I guess that comes back to that comes back to this idea of, of trying to do something to, to remedy the state of the world. You know, E everywhere we look by diversity, wildlife is in trouble. And I, I think it, we have a responsibility to. We surely have a responsibility [00:41:00] to protect and preserve life on earth as much as, as much as we can.

I mean, I guess there’s an argument that some people say sometimes, and I’ve often thought about it that You know, everything is in flux and life that, you know, there’s always been extinction events and life comes and goes on planet earth. But, but surely we have within us a moral or Aneth, I feel that like we still have a moral or a, or an ethical Responsibility to, to preserve life on earth.

I mean, would we be poorer or richer if the jar rhino went extinct? I guess you could argue that a lot of people wouldn’t wouldn’t know the difference. Your life would go on UN unaffected, but the world would be a lot poorer the world. Surely is a richer, more interesting, more inspirational place with animals like the Jarvin rhino and with [00:42:00] the vaquita PPU, you know, these are animals that don’t have a functional they don’t have a kind of great function in our day to day lives.

But if you let them go, then where does it stop? Where do you draw the line? You know, where do you say, okay, well, the vaquita didn’t matter, but the honey bee does, you know, I, I think we are part of such an intricate, intricate web on this planet of such an interdependent, intricate web of, of millions, of different species.

And we have no idea where, where we slot in really and how dependent we really are and how our dependent of other species are on, on each other. And as soon as you start, start removing those building blocks, you know, taking out the pieces of gender, then you don’t know when it’s gonna topple and you, you don’t know what’s gonna happen.

So I think E every turn we have a responsibility to, to save life and, and Preserve other [00:43:00] species on the planet. Very true. And in your lifetime, where’s the most memorable place you’ve been and why? Oh, that’s a really good one. Do you know the most memorable place is probably the, the depths of the Gobi deserts in the middle of winter.

We were going to film the last wild camels. There’s only about 500 left for a BBC series. Went out a couple years ago, called a perfect planet. And it was. Just extraordinary. It was five days travel from ULA. Batar the capital down through Mongolia into the Gobi. And it was about minus 50 Celsius at times with wind chill.

Absolutely. Just, just frigid, frigid cold. And. The the, every everywhere you looked it, it was [00:44:00] like, it was like a Marshan landscape. I’ve never been anywhere that looked less like this planet than the, the heart of the Gobi. It was just black shale. As far as you can see very little vegetation at all. And yet one of the largest mamals on the planet, the, the wild camel still survives there somehow.

And we were filming it as it. It looks for snow and it’s extremely shy and extremely hard to get close to, but that was, that really stuck out for me. That was an incredible place. I was very lucky to go there. Wow. Sounds incredible. Yeah. We had a few people on the podcast who went through the Gobi and everything.

They said about the Gobi, just all about strangeness and just oddities within it. Sometimes we had Ash dykes who talked about like the silence and how you could even like hear your body function in a sense. That’s lovely. yeah, I like that. [00:45:00] Amazing. And what Terry, what are you doing now and, or what are you doing next and how can people follow you with these sort of adventures that you do in the future?

Well I’m I’m about to dive into this, edit on this series, as I said, so I might not be on expedition for a little while but do keep an eye on my Instagram and I will have, I will be blogging about it. Instagram is always the best way. And I’ll, I’ll put news out about that. I always start a new blog or a new website when it comes to a new journey or a new adventure.

So yeah, Instagram’s the best way. Amazing. Well, it’s been an absolute pleasure listening to your stories, and I cannot thank you enough for coming on today. You’re very welcome. And I’m sure the audience absolutely loved hearing about the Jarvin rhino. Well, you’re very welcome. If anyone [00:46:00] wants to know more about it, they’re very welcome to get in touch.

Just ping me a message. Amazing. Well, there you go. Well, again, thank you so much. And look forward to following your adventures in the. Great, John. Thanks so much for having me. Thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed the show and don’t forget to subscribe and review the podcast. If you’re listening on apple, a massive thank you to those who reviewed it.

And I hope to see you next week for another fascinating tele adventure until then have a great day wherever you are in the world and happy adventures.

Preet Chandi

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PREET CHANDI (POLAR EXPLORER)

On today’s Podcast, we have Preet Chandi. Preet Chandi is an army officer, physiotherapist and endurance athlete. She became the first person to reach the south pole on foot in two years, completing the Trek and little over 40 days.

Join the Adventure – https://mailchi.mp/44c55725379d/newsletter-page-ziba-adventures

In January 2022, Preet Chandi, or ‘polar Preet’, became the first woman of colour to ski solo to the South Pole. She conquered temperatures of minus 50 and winds of up to 60 while pulling 90 kilos. Nonetheless, she completed her 700-mile challenge almost a week ahead of schedule, skiing from Hercules Inlet to the south pole and 40 days, seven hours and three minutes. She hopes her achievement will inspire others.

Review the Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-modern-adventurer-podcast/id1535779210

Writing this expedition was always about so much more than me. I want to encourage people to push their boundaries and believe in themselves. And I want to be able to do it without being labelled. She is an inspiration and role model as the first woman of colour to complete this impressive feat. She said everybody starts somewhere, no matter where you’re from or where the start line is.

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Transcript of our Conversation

Preet Chandi

[00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to season two with a modern adventurer podcast. I’m your host John hospital. I’m an adventurer and photographer. And each week I’ll be talking with a new guest about their latest adventure from around the world for all the new listeners and subscribers who have joined. I speak to adventurers and explorers who do remarkable things in the field of exploration and endurance.

This is an immersive podcast. Say this season, their story is cut to music and cinematically. As we immerse ourselves into the heart of their adventure. My next guest is an army officer physiotherapist and endurance athlete. She became the first person to reach the south pole on foot in two years, completing the Trek and little over 40 days.

She conquered temperatures of minus 50 and winds of up to 60 while pulling a 90 kilos. Nonetheless, she completed her 700 mile challenge almost a week ahead of schedule [00:01:00] skiing from Hercules inlet to the south pole and 40 days, seven hours and three minutes. She hopes her achievement will inspire others.

Writing this expedition was always about so much more than me. I want to encourage people to push their boundaries and to believe in themselves. And I want to be able to do it without being labeled. She is an inspiration and role model as the first woman of color to complete this impressive feat. She said, no matter where you’re from or where the start line is, everybody starts somewhere.

I didn’t want to just break the glass ceiling. I want to smash it into a million pieces. I’m delighted to introduce Preet. Chandry AKA polar Preet to the podcast. Thank you very much for having me, what I love to do at the sort of beginning of the podcast for people who don’t know you, who are you? What do you do?

And how did you get into this sort of life of adventure? Yeah, of course. So [00:02:00] my name is preach handy and I’m a physiotherapist in the British army. And how did I get into a life of adventure? Oh, wow. Good question. I am for me. I think we, the more we do, the more we realize we’re capable of. I realize that at probably your mind, my twenties, that I liked distance running.

And I started to do a little bit more and a little bit more. And for a while I knew I wanted to do something big. I just didn’t know what it was. I don’t think I’m the strongest or the quickest, but I do like to keep going. So I thought it’s going to be something long. And it was my old boss. You know, we were brainstorming and I mentioned that I wanted to do something big and he said, what about Antartica?

And I thought, not a chance. I don’t know anything about Antartica at all. You know, I I’ve never been in those kinds of conditions. And then the idea came back to me and, you know, I thought, why not? How amazing would it be to go and do something that I [00:03:00] don’t know anything about and to show. Actually we can come from any sort of background and, you know, it’s okay that I didn’t grow up reading about polar explorers.

So that’s how I kind of got into this, which I love. I love that I didn’t really know anything about it. And you know, I started on Google as you do so, so that was my start starting in into this. I think it’s sort of terrifying when you have an idea in your head and it just grows and grows and grows on you, and then suddenly it sort of consumes everything about you.

When you had these sort of things you sort of, at night, you go go to bed, sort of dreaming about it, thinking of it so much. And it sort of just takes hold. But you even beforehand were doing these sort of adventures. You had done the sort of marathon, the sub bla you had, you were a very competitive sports person.

Yeah. So I play, I played tennis when I was younger. So I started when I was 10 and and started paying, I think competitively quite, [00:04:00] quite quickly. I moved away from home when I was 14 and then lived in like a tennis house with a guardian for a short time and then 16 chat Republic. And then I moved back to England when I was 19.

So I didn’t really do Kind of the usual education only did a few GCSE is I didn’t do a levels on it for a long time. It wasn’t really something I enjoyed and I wanted to come back. And it’s funny. I think you always crave what you don’t feel like you have. And for me, I was craving some, some sort of stability and, you know, I remember.

Really keen to get into university and thought I was so, so far behind everybody else, my age, I was 19 thinking, oh, you know, I, I’m not smart enough. And again, other people told me as well, I wasn’t smart enough. And I wouldn’t, wouldn’t be able to get into university. Which is one of my biggest achievements to date.

And it’s hard to do things when either you don’t believe in yourself that other people have told you. That you, you can’t do something. [00:05:00] And I I stopped playing tennis for a long while, barely. And then try to pick it up again a little bit through, through different teams. And I think from there I wanted something that I felt was something that I enjoy, that I wanted to do.

And there was a university I decided to do a half marathon. And then after doing the half marathon, I decided to do a full marathon and it was after university that I ran. My first ultra marathon, which went terribly wrong. I mean, I’ve finished five hour horrible at the end of this. I wasn’t prepared for everything.

But then, you know, I’d almost call it that bug. And I, I joined the army when I was 19. When I came back from Czech Republic, because I saw an advert in diabetes that. I didn’t tell anybody in my family. And when I did tell people, people weren’t very happy. But again, when you were doing things that are considered out of the norm, I think that often questioned and it opened up a different world for me.

So yes, I did play sport, but [00:06:00]the kind of the outdoor world, you know, like the adventure type thing. I hadn’t been ready walking outside or like been camping. And, you know, the first time I properly went, I don’t know, you can’t really call it camping, but did that kind of thing was it was in the army. So that opened up different doors.

And I found the more that I was doing within the army, the more I started doing in my civilian civilian side. And after that ultra marathon, then, you know, I remember reading about at Martha and DeSalvo, so this, this kind of OTR mammoth, and in this heart as a, in a, in a book that I got for secret Santa it, the, the title was something along the lines of the world’s toughest challenges.

And when I first read about it, I was like, whoa, that sounds know. Like, like insane, amazing. And all of those sayings. And a few years later, I thought, well, why not just enter it? And I did. And, and in my mind I had this thing, it was like, if I can do that, if I can complete this, then I can [00:07:00] go on and do this big thing.

That was Antarctica and yes, they are in completely different climates, but it’s you know, it’s another barrier, isn’t it? It’s this big thing that I read about years ago and they’re all achievable and I’m not gonna, you know, not going to say that easy, like it, you know, it was hard to get to Antarctica.

It really was. But they are achievable. I think it’s a, we had Jamie Ramsey who on the podcast on episode four. And he, he sort of described it as blowing up a balloon. You sort of blow up the balloon and it sort of gets to this stage and you’re like, oh, okay. And then you blow a bit more and gradually it gets bigger and bigger.

And this sort of the, what you’re capable of, it just sort of grows and grows and grows. Yeah. Yeah. A hundred percent. And so with the Antarctica was was that before, did the idea sort of come to you before you started doing these sort of challenges of mouth and the star blur? Or was it like math and science?

All right. What’s next? No, I had done taught to get as a really [00:08:00] vague idea at the back of my head and, but I had to do Martin Tavo before. I would start preparing or looking into it. And that was just in my head. If I can do this, I can do MDs. Then I can. And then, yeah, that’s it. I can start preparing or planning or finding out what I even do, you know, to the point I was like, do you run, do you ski?

So, you know, how do I, how do I go go there? And what do I do that. Yes. I, I had it as an idea before. And and then, and, you know, I was supposed to be like super prepared for, for going to Tara desert, but I entered and. I ended up going on a tour to South Sudan with the army. So I spent six months there and then I had some leave when I came back.

So I decided to go traveling around south America, just like kind of sprained my ankle and I think too big, but I’m one of the kind of walks there. And then came back to England with about a week to pack to get my kit ready for this race and [00:09:00] buy all my food and stuff. So I was definitely not prepared.

Not as prepared as I should have and could have been. But you know, it was great. And I was out on my own, but you’re not alone in these events. There were so many other people there with you. I shared a tent with some amazing people who I’m still in touch with to this day. So yeah, it really it was really good.

Well, I think South Sudan is probably better training than sort of up and down Hyde park in London, whether it’s a bit of sand. Yeah. But the thing is with these. So because of the temperature out there, we can’t go out and train as it gets above a certain temperature. So to be honest, I didn’t really do much.

I did a little bit of like endurance type stuff I did. I did, you know, I was, I was keeping fat and in the gym and stuff, but not really going out and running too much. Apart from one event that I decided to organize which probably part of my training, but I I said to everyone, let’s do an endurance event, you know, for charity while we’re out here.

And we did it overnight [00:10:00] because w you know, we were able to do it then. And I decided to do 12 hours on one camp that we had. So I did the whole 12 and others would come and join me for like an hour overnight. And then I thought, well, if I’m doing one camp, Did the other camp test, I’ll make it 24 hours, you know, I’ll do this one camp.

And then the week later I flew to the other camp, didn’t know that. And I thought if I’m doing 24 hours, I might as well include the transit counts. I’ll make it 30 hours. So over like a week and a half, I did. So I guess that was training this 30 hours of yeah, it’s kind of walk slash slow jog around these different camps in South Sudan for charity, which is.

Well say you go back and say, this idea of Antarctica grew on you as you sort of stepped up on these sort of challenges, but you had no sort of experience in the cold and see the problem with training through that sort of towards Norway and Greenland. And that’s sort of what you did. So. In terms of, from the [00:11:00] idea to getting out there, what was the sort of planning and execution to achieve?

Because it’s getting out there. It’s probably almost the hardest part. Yeah, it was. So I I’m, so looking online, I found Antarctic logistics and expeditions quite soon and and filled out this kind of This question and there and then they contacted me and gave me kind of a list of things that I needed to do.

You know, had, had been camping on snow. Had I done these trips, they suggested doing like a polar training course, and I did a course in February 29. Hannah, McCain’s a polar expedition training, so, you know, perfect course to do. And that was a great course and it gave me a really good baseline which is what I wanted, you know, I, I realized as well when I went there that I wasn’t starting as a complete beginner.

Like I thought I was. So I realized that, okay, I might have not put a tent in the [00:12:00] snow before, but I have put up a tent, you know, I didn’t know how to work as a team, you know, in the light, your team we were in, I knew how to use a compass and navigate. Do you know what I mean? I realize actually there were these crossover skills that I had that, that, you know, were helping me in this, in this training course.

That that gave me such a good baseline to then move forward. And it wasn’t very long after getting back from there. That it was an COVID. So then I’m in a, I’m in a medical regiment in the army. So, you know, we were on kind of notice to move. And to get to Greenland. That was, that was my toughest training trip by far.

So it just opened up for that. We could travel again around August time. Oh, I said 2019 for the last one, but I think it might’ve been trying to figure out what year I’m in now. But I went in in August to to Greenland and they’d canceled all the expeditions that year. And I was desperate to go because I knew I wanted to get to [00:13:00] Antarctica and.

Yeah, I knew I wanted to get to Antarctica and I emailed all the companies and asked if they could find me a guide. And one of the companies did find me a guide. So like the week before I was like running around the UK borrowing equipment from everybody, I could, I can afford the trip all in one go.

So I I paid instead of buying, buying the house or that I was supposed to, I use my house savings and life savings to go to Greenland. And it still wasn’t enough. So. We then agree that I’d pay off in seven months installments and. You know, we, we got out to Greenland and then quarantine, I was like three flights, a helicopter and a boat to get us to our start point.

We had some pretty tough weather out there, kind of every three days after we got over the crevasse fields, it was like a storm hit. So we’re having to kind of like, you know, Kind of stay in the tent and those days. And then the last five, six days we got stuck in a storm and I had to stay in the tent.

Anyway, we weren’t [00:14:00] going to make the full crossing and had to be extracted off the ice. So there was this trip, but I remember there was some low moments. And for me, I was in this tent on this trip, having used everything I had and I hadn’t reached the other side, which, you know, I kind of expected I would have done.

And then we will. We will have to be extracted off the ice. And I remember them asking me on the satellite phone, how I was going to pay. And that was probably one of the most stressful situations or conversations I’ve had to have, because I didn’t know. I literally, you know, I’d use everything. And eventually the company that found me the guide they paid.

And I can afford to pay them back for a year and a half or just under a year and a half. I paid them off just before I went to Antarctica and came back and then we got off the ice and I would kit, which was supposed to be on that side was wasn’t no, sorry we got off the ice. And then I flight was canceled.

Of course. And then we finally got on the internal flight to the other side of [00:15:00] Greenland where our kit was supposed to be our S you know, other clothing, which of course was in there had been sent that. And it was almost like everything that could go wrong was going wrong. So finally made it back to the UK still.

And my ski boots, my other clothes were still in. In in Greenland and I felt deflated. I felt mentally and physically deflated. I’d use all, you know, everything I had, I owed so much money. And I remember I was supposed to be doing the virtual Linda marathon the next day. And I remember my partner saying to me, you know, you don’t have to do it.

And I don’t know what it was in my mind that I think it was just to prove to myself that when I’m feeling like this, I can give more. So I didn’t have my trainers, they were in Greenland. So I used my military boots and Walked slash humbled. The London marathon virtually tipped me over. I think it was like seven and a half hours.

So that was a, that was a day. That trip. I, I talk about a lot when I talk about [00:16:00] Antarctica, because it gave me so much, it was like the best failure I’ve ever had. And I didn’t see it straight away. I think it’s really hard, you know, when you have that to straight away be like, yeah, I’m going to learn so much from this that it’s not true.

I felt horrible after, you know, it, it, wasn’t a great feeling. I learned all the things that I personally needed to work on as well. And. I learned so much from it, you know, I really did. And I used to think about it when I was in Antarctica, I think, well, at least I’m not sticking a stolen for six days. So those tough times that you have, I think we can use them.

I really did. I did do a bit more training after that. But that was one of the key trips for me. I think that I, I learned so, so much from, so we spent 27 days on the ice cap and. It it was a really good learning trout. And I realized, I said 2019 Finola. I think I met 2020 when I did that training trip, let’s say after Greenland [00:17:00] you you’d had their sort of failure and say sort of almost rock bottom was to sort of foundations to sort of build yourself up to gay towards Antioch.

Yeah, it just, it was, it was a tough time. It was you know, I didn’t have any sponsors on Thai onboard at the time. So I was using like everything I had. I was doing my masters at the time as well, which I didn’t manage to get funding for that as well. With COVID we were on notice to me. I. No, I hadn’t stopped.

I didn’t start vaccinating until the year after being one of the vaccinators, but it was, it was a tough time. I found personally and you know, I was emailing 10, 15 companies and I. I, you know, I wasn’t getting much back, obviously it was COVID as well. So when they did respond, it was, yeah, sorry, we’ve got this huge pandemic going on.

So there was so many other things going on that, that made it tough. [00:18:00] And in the background, I just, I was really determined. I just wanted to keep going. And in those tough moments and times I just took it one thing at a time. So. Okay. You know, at least I had gone to green and it took me a while to realize like what I’d learned from it.

And you know, what I could use moving forward. And, you know, I realize now looking back, like, I’m really glad it wasn’t just a smooth crossing with good weather. Would I have learned the things I learned from it? Probably not. And, and it’s, and it’s hard to see that it is, you know, and I think definitely at the time but I’m glad it went the way it did.

I don’t, yeah, I don’t look back now and think, I mean, it was a difficult trip, but you know, I look back at it. I’m like, well, it was difficult. I also did it. And I think. A lot of us have, you know, some tough times tough moments and we, we don’t give ourselves enough credit for getting through those times as well.

And I think we should, you know, we, we literally have got [00:19:00] through that time. Whereas a lot of the time I think we can be quite mean to ourselves. I certainly had, and, and I think, well, I’d never talked to my friend. I’d never talked to my friend that way. So why do I think I don’t talk to myself this way?

And so, so what was the sort of turning point? Because it sort of sounds like the time between Greenland and Antarctica was pretty tough because to get out there, you need big sponsors. You were sending 15 odd a night getting nothing back. What was the sort of turning point which went from this is never going to happen to, oh, this is, this is happening.

So I so my first, once they came on board 10 11 months before I left. And I like it’s so great to see the emails coming through because I went through the inquiry. On their website and you know, when they responded, it obviously gone forward forward, you know, like to the people. And then I did the pitch.

So I did the pitch in December and then they kind of came on board like Jay. Yeah. Jan fab time before. And [00:20:00] I found when I got that first sponsor well, one, it gave me confidence. Like, you know, I literally have a company backing me. And then I got more sponsors on board, you know, I feel like having that first sponsor yeah, it really helped like, and I started, I think it gave me a bit more life as well to like push a bit more.

Okay. Like be a bit better, a bit smarter about where I’m going. I started using LinkedIn quite a lot, to be honest and started messaging like anybody I could on LinkedIn. And got some more sponsors on board. And I mean, to be honest, without those sponsors, you know, I, I wouldn’t have been able to go to Antarctica.

I couldn’t like I’d use all, I used everything I had already, so I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them. So it’s, it’s so great to like, have them on board and it’s. Yeah. It’s great to have people that support you before you’ve, you know, you’ve gone and done the thing. Cause that’s when it’s hard, right?

That’s when people are taking the risk. Whereas when I’ve come back, it’s the same [00:21:00] people who are like, yeah. You know, almost we were supportive all along and, and that’s not really the reality when I, when I had this idea. And, you know, the leader, there are a lot of people who just, weren’t very interested and, and that’s not me saying, oh, you know, you, weren’t interested.

You know, you, you don’t get to be supportive now. That’s not what I mean by that. But what I mean, or what I want to kind of say is it’s great that I’m here now, but when the next person comes along, And they, you know, have this, this idea, this, this dream, whatever it is, ambition, let’s support that person.

Let’s encourage people to push their boundaries just because we are wanting to do something that’s different from the norm. You know, that shouldn’t be discouraged. I found that quite a lot. You know, a lot of the time people would say to me, why can’t you just be normal pre almost like a bit of a joke, but, you know, because I’m doing all these things.

That, when that normal is not the expected thing, why can’t I just do the expected thing? And I want actually [00:22:00] encouraging, I want pushing our boundaries to be the normal thing, because we create our own normal. Right. And that could be whatever we want. Yeah. I think you learn a lot more about oneself and the world by doing that, getting out there, discovering whether it’s about yourself, but how far you can push yourself in that respect.

Well, sort of let’s jump into the story. Say you’ve got these bonuses. You’re now a couple of days before. You’re about to sort of start your journey. How, what are you, what are the sort of feelings going through your head as you are flying to probably. Yes. Yeah. So flying to Chile almost, I, I felt a bit more relaxed on the few days before I was flying to Chile.

It’s quite stressful I found or that few weeks but then I’m on the plane, you know, I’m on the way there which is great. And I say I’m blind to Chile. I had a stop in Amsterdam for [00:23:00] for kind of 45 minutes. You know, but I’ve got there in plenty of time to, to walk to the next to the next gate.

And I’ve got my black rucksack, which has got all my satellite comms equipment and my laptop. And I I go to get something out my bag and realize I picked up the wrong rucksack and I. Honestly, I T yeah, it’s the sudden panic that hit me. So then I suddenly start running back to the gate that I think I came out of because nobody ever, you know, remembers the gate that they came from.

And I think I was running probably like three, four minutes. Somebody shouted. And it was the, the kind of crew on the other side with somebody who’d picked my backup and, oh my God, thank God they’d noticed. And we swapped bags and he went to get his transit light somewhere else. And then I went back to get mine and I’m just like, oh, I remember messaging to my family.

And they were just like only pre [00:24:00] and I was like, I know I was like only me. I just. After that I was just, you know, holding onto my bag, like super tightly and just, yeah. Went to Santiago had to COVID test, stay there the night and then flew to Punta arenas. And, and then it was prep phase pretty much.

I’d given myself more than enough time to do that phase because I was worried that I’d get stuck with COVID. And then I just, I prepped everything. I prepped all of my food. I took all of the food out of its original packaging. I chopped everything down into small pieces. I wrote messages on every single food bag because I wanted this to be about more than me.

I was bringing all these people with me. I hadn’t met them but old people that had written on LinkedIn or Facebook or social media, and I wrote their names on the messages as well. So I had that with me kind of every day and, and then flew to. Bleach to Antarctica, to union glacier. And do you want, it’s getting that like, I mean, it’s amazing, like to be an [00:25:00] Antarctica, but I was, I was very much focused on getting started.

So this is, I mean, getting to Antarctica was a huge achievement for me. You know, I actually made it there to go and do this expedition and there weren’t many of us doing solo expeditions. You know, it was tough to get that. It really was. And I remember when I was, I stayed in union union glacier for about two days before I flew to my, to my start point at Hercules in that.

And that’s the moment I was kind of on my own. And, you know, like watch, watch the twin Otter fly away and that’s me and I was, I was ready to go, you know, I was excited to, to kind of get going. This is something like sad, you know, two and a half years of planning to get started. So at the start what was sort of the, one of the problems that you faced.

So in terms of problems that start, so it, I mean the sleds at its heaviest then so it’s, you know, you can kind of feel it as you, as you’re dragging it and there’s a, you start on like a steeper section. [00:26:00] But to be honest with you, I felt fresh, you know, so even, yes, it it’s a heavy sled. I felt fashion and I knew that I was expecting that.

So there weren’t, you know, surprises that. Probably the size of some of the streaky, which are like those WinShape ridges. Some of them, they were huge. But that was a little bit later in the, in the trip. And there were, the sections were mixed. So some sections, it felt like, you know, it was really dragging hard behind me.

And there were a few sections. I was a bit icier. I probably fell over more times than I thought I would, but I did think to myself, I thought, oh, I wonder if there’s like a Guinness book, world, Guinness world record for this amount of times you fall over on a trip like this. But so yeah, I fell more than I thought I would.

No, no serious injuries, thankfully that it became tougher probably after I passed the halfway point. Personally for me, those ridges got bigger. More [00:27:00] tired. It was getting colder and that’s when I feel like it. Yeah, it got more difficult than. When you’re sort of pushing your sledge for people who don’t know what Antarctica is, like, what is the sort of feelings around you?

What are you sort of experiencing you’re in, I mean, it’s, you know, this white desert Antarctica and it it’s absolutely stunning, but your, you don’t feel like you’re skiing towards anything. So you do a 360 and you can’t see. You know, anything that you’re going towards. And even though I know I’m getting towards the south pole, I can’t see the south pole which that was kind of mentally difficult and it’s, it’s not really smooth.

There’s all these kind of ridges and places. Some aren’t so big, some are really big and they’re basically shaped by, by the wind out there. There were one or two days where it was calm. Unbelievable. It was amazing. Like no wind at all. And I take my hood down. I’d be like, wow, it’s just an there’s [00:28:00] 24 hour daylight, you know?

So night and day looks exactly the same. There’s absolutely no change whatsoever. Mainly it was windy though. So generally I could just hear wind a lot of the time. And it was always headwind, no matter how much I prayed for it to be coming behind me. And one of the messages inside my tent said, remember to enjoy it, which was really important because, you know, you think of course you can enjoy it.

You’re in this incredible place. But when it was getting tough, it was really hard to remind myself that, you know, actually I’m in Antarctica, this is incredible. And, and getting to this point is amazing. When the sun was out, it was, it was really lovely. Even though it was windy, I could use my. I could kind of use the sun to navigate as well, which, which helped and, you know, kind of look, see my shadow, which it’s, it’s a small thing, but it’s a visual thing. [00:29:00]

Whereas just because it was 24 hour day, like the sun wasn’t always out, so sometimes it will be cloud. And sometimes it will be a whiteout which somebody else had said that a whiteout is like traveling in a marshmallow, which I think is a good way to look at it. And you just can’t see anything at all in front of you.

It’s just. Deep thick fog. And that was quite hard because, you know, you can’t see anything now. And I just be staring down at my compass and sometimes get a little bit motion sickness because I was just staring down. And I try and concentrate on different things there, like, you know, either looking at my skis am I had audio books to help me as well.

And I try and try and, you know, be you, you really are invested in the audio books you’re listening to. So it’s important to pick a good one. Yeah. And, and yeah, it it’s this, this huge white desert and you feel like you are, well, I felt, you know, that there wasn’t anybody [00:30:00] for miles and miles from me at a points that that was the case.

But even, you know, as I’ve still been dropped off, just especially when you could see you when the sun was out and you could see quite far and just see, yeah, nobody else, no sign of anybody. Else’s, it’s pretty impressive. To to think that like, I don’t, I can’t think of any of the time where I, I felt like I’m completely physically alone.

Was there a moment where it sort of all nearly fell apart on the trip you had 40 days, were there moments where you questioned yourself or questioned something? I did question myself, but I don’t think there was ever a point where I thought, well, I’m not going to do this. And I think there was in the training, but you know, it took me two and a half years to get to that star line.

And there was absolutely no chance I was giving up in that time. This was like the last leg of the journey. It’s like not going over that final. You know, to the finish line. [00:31:00] So there was nothing that was going to going to stop this part. But there were some tough, tough moments for sure. As it was getting cold.

And I think I was losing weight as well and feeling more tired as I went forward. And those history, yeah, I mentioned said those, those ridges in some sections, they were huge. And I remember looking in some paws and king, I don’t even know how I’m going to navigate around these. And I did fall in a few.

Luckily I didn’t hurt myself. So even though I went in my sled, didn’t follow me, which is good. Occasionally it came down slightly and I’d have to like pull it out in my arms. That, that could be quite frustrating. And I remember just at one point screening. Out. And I can even hear my scream because I just heard like the wind, you know, it was like lost in, in the wind and it, yeah, it, it was pretty difficult at points like that.

And that, I just had to break it down and [00:32:00] focus on taking literally Wampa in front of the other, you know, and really, not much past that because I couldn’t focus on anything more than that. It was too difficult. I was getting frustrated. And that wasn’t really helping. And so towards the end, as you’re getting closer to the finishing.

What was the sort of feelings running through your head as you’re pushing your sledge towards the south pole? I just wanted to get back. I think when I got there, it was relief. I did actually get here. It relieved to see something. And even though I’ve got my GPS, my compass, you know, I know that I’m getting closer, you can’t see anything so visually to see something is really special.

And to, yeah, to, to kind of. To get close to that. But a few days out I was, you know, I was excited to, to get finished. I, I was really craving a Coke kind of Coke. So looking forward to that, looking forward to that kind of Coke which I got when when I got to the [00:33:00] south pole, which was a yeah. Which is really, really nice and just.

Yeah, it was, you know, the weather, it was pretty cold, like really cold when, when I was at and I mean, these are estimates, cause I didn’t have anything with me, but I think around minus 50 with the wind chill, maybe a little bit cold on one or two of the days. But it, I was, and I was tired. You know, I could feel myself slowing right down.

So I think towards the end, the feeling. You know, almost there just keep going like it, you know, you are almost there. And because I had good weather the day that I came in, I could see the weather station about five, five miles out, which is just incredible because I could see some, it still took me ages to get there, but I could see something, you know, I was skiing towards dislike this gray color that I could see in the distance.

To like chat that it was ready. That was, I know that was definitely some, there is something in the, in the distance. So that was really exciting. [00:34:00] People who get to the south pole, always talk about the sort of feelings of you’ve been in this white desert for 40 days. And then you get to the south pole, which is sort of.

Like a building site. Is that how one would describe it? Yeah, I guess this there’s so much that, you know, I don’t, I don’t know if I expected there to be like all this stuff that there’s like this huge Antarctic research centers, a weather station has all these different, like tent set up. So yeah, no, I, I guess for me, I just you know, I remember.

During the morning or something, but obviously, you know, it looks the same as, as the day. And I saw people, it was incredible. And I didn’t really know what to do. I was like, hi. And and then they kind of showed me like the direction towards the south pole and then got that. And it was like, oh, wow, like I’m actually here.

Yeah. I don’t think I really, I think there was definitely a relief, but other than that, just, you know, I, I messaged my [00:35:00] partner really quickly to say that I was there. So he wasn’t waiting for my check-in call with Michelle’s doing every 24 hours. And yeah, it is. I guess it is a building site.

There’s so much that all of a sudden, which kind of like, oh, where’s this all come from? And it was, I have, for me, I think, you know, I was like, oh my God, I’m I, as a Punjabi girl from Darby, I got to the south pole, which I try and remind myself that because, you know, It almost becomes the norm. Like I’ve been that now.

It’s like, oh yeah, I’ve done that. It was a, you know, it was an incredible feeling, but it’s not an achievable or dislike faraway dream or anything like that. I got that. So I do need to remind myself of where I was a few years ago at a point where, you know, I never ever thought I’d do something like this.

It just never was in my ideas. I didn’t know anything about it. It wasn’t really my world. And was that sort of important to you to sorta because. [00:36:00] After sort of finished and you came home sort of worldwide press or leave you know, your story was incredible and, you know, coming back and sort of seeing all the press and all the coverage from it, how was the sort of feelings with.

It was, I think it was really amazing to see that some of the reactions to, to it and, you know, it was, there was some like really great reactions. Some probably, yeah, a little bit less than that, especially around kind of being a woman of color some of the comments. So, you know, a lot of the news outlets that first woman of color to do a solo expedition on, in an untidy.

And it was great to see all the positive comments. And, you know, when I got back to Chile and I was, I was no longer on airplane mode and I had wifi, I was going down the comments. And a lot of the comments I saw on mainstream media were things like why does it matter? Great story, but [00:37:00] ruined by the fact that you mentioned the color of her skin.

We are all equal. I think it took me a while to process these things. But to me, equality is not about ignoring our differences. So, you know, I was called British and an army officer, but you know, nobody, nobody picked up or had any issue with those differences at all. It was, it was the color of my skin or the fact that they’d use the term woman of color.

And for somebody who hasn’t always been proud of my background, I’m the kind of my skin I was so, so proud of. To be that representing, to show that actually no matter where we’re from, what we look like, we can go and achieve anything. At the end of the day, I was told many, many times, I don’t know, like a polar Explorer and not necessarily in a, in a horrible or malicious way, but it was still sad.

And, you know, and if, if people say things enough times, do you then start to believe it? And I wanted to show. You know, we can look like anything and go and do anything. And, [00:38:00] you know, there’s been young, young girls, who’ve dressed as a polar Explorer, you know, over the last few months and sent me those pictures as incredible you know, to, to show you that, you know, you can go and do anything to see somebody that looks like you.

Extremely powerful. So getting that message out was, was really great. And, you know, I’ve been speaking to, I think I’ve spoken to 17,000 young people since I’ve been back, you know, the message that I really wanted to get across was to me, it doesn’t matter if you have no interested interest in adventure or Antarctica, but just that whatever the boundaries are for you, like no boundary or barrier is too small to overcome.

Like you can. Overcome them, you know, and you can go and do anything. So, you know, don’t let anybody limit you, but also if you do have great, you know, a big ambition, great. And you can do it, but it does also take work to get there because I think we so often see. This end result. Right. We see it on social [00:39:00] media.

We see, you know, so yes, it, it, you know, is achievable, but that two and a half years was hard. So please work hard to get whatever it is you want. Well, you’ve sort of laid the foundations for future explorers in Everett, all over the world. Hopefully. And so, as you say, you sort of came back to this wave you probably were on a massive high coming back.

You’d finish. You’re probably exhausted. You had put two and a half years into this goal. What was the sort of, and you’ve probably almost are still on that sort of mode through giving your talk. So, cause I was going to say like, At the end of all, I’ve had many, many sort of people, Pella, explorers, adventurers, and at the end, there’s always a feeling of like, when you build yourself up to create, to achieve this goal, what was the sort of feelings when you came back after doing it?

[00:40:00] And he come down. If I’m honest with you at all it’s been pretty full on it’s been really busy with all the talks which I just finished on a, on Friday. And I I think. It is even though yes, the two and a half years that went into this, it was, I didn’t know anything about a south pole. I didn’t dream, you know, I didn’t, when I was younger, it wasn’t a dream that I always wanted to do this.

I wanted to do something big that would help inspire people. And you know, on the back of this. Adventure grant for women. They’ll be given the first grant this year. I’m also training for phase two of the expeditions. So this was it was actually not my aim to do this trip. I wanted to do a bigger trip.

My application got declined because I still didn’t have enough experience. So I created phase one and that’s what I just completed. So I think so I wanted to do a crossing. I solo unsupported crossing which you know, if I can get the [00:41:00] funding and everything, I’ll go as soon as I can really.

And I remember putting my application and when I got back from Greenland, because I knew that I didn’t have the experience. So I waited because I thought, well, I’ve done Greenland now. And and it was declined quite rightly by by Aly. And, and I feel. Again, I was a bit deflated, like, you know, get getting it rejected and I thought, well, what else can I do?

So you know, I knew that I could go to Antarctica and do this expedition 700 miles to the south pole. Without having been there before with the experience that I had so far or whether a little bit more, which I think. So, so that’s what I did. And so this was, you know, yes, a huge expedition in itself, but also gave me the training and everything I needed to go and do phase two, joined the likes of Colin Brady and Michael and yeah.

Yeah, exactly. And and. I guess for me, it was always the that [00:42:00] was my goal. As in, when I thought about what I wanted to do in Antarctica, that that was the goal. So as great as this trip was to be honest, it’s great. It’s like everything that came out of it was, you know, and it’s, it’s been, yeah, really kind of inspiring to me, for me to see as well.

This, this was always the trip that I was, I was hoping and aiming to do always over the last two and a half years. I’d say that’s, what’s driving you at the moment. Yeah, no, I think so. So I finished the talks see I’ve still got a full-time job. So so literally finished Hawks last week and back into my full-time role this week.

So just training around that and and. Hopefully putting, trying to put in a few more barriers this time sorry, Bobby. This is not what I meant today. A few more boundaries this time. Just in terms of for myself. So, you know what I can do because. Very very busy when I got back and I struggled with it [00:43:00] mentally.

Just do it, doing all of those things. And yet I think I realized I just needed a break. So giving myself time as well and giving myself a break and you know, for me, those boundaries would be involving, okay, well, I can’t, you know, this is what I can give. I can’t maybe come back and do back to back talks for this many months.

So just figuring those out. Very nice. Well, it’s been absolutely incredible sort of listening to the story and, you know, as you say, it’s an absolute inspiration for so many people all over the world. There’s a part of the show where we ask the same five questions to each guest each week with the first being, what does it mean to have purpose?

What does it mean to have Pappas? I think. How does it mean to have focus? I think that could be one of his personal to say for me, I, I want to, I personally, I want to see how much I can do. I [00:44:00] feel like getting to the south pole, I’m only just now realizing what I’m capable of, you know, and I’m 33. So imagine if you believe in yourself from a younger age I think to have purpose is to have.

Maybe a drive tool. It’s whatever that is. I don’t think it’s something I’ve always had. And I think at a time when you don’t have it, then, you know, getting involved in a lot of different things. That’s, that’s what I did were there for me that was joining the army reserves. It was trying different subjects.

At my access course to get into my uni course. So I don’t think you need to be hard on yourself if you know, you don’t necessarily know which way you need to go and also your purpose might change. That’s okay. As well. So that’s something I’ve definitely learned. Sorry if that roundabout this is the question.

What about your favorite. Oh, well, my favorite quote I have so many, so I [00:45:00] think that’s, yeah, that’s difficult one. I do think nothing is impossible when you believe in yourself. I do believe that and you know, no matter how big, no matter how small I do believe that we can achieve anything we want.

When we believe in ourselves, which again is difficult. And I know it’s not the easiest thing well, but we can, we can get. Very nice favorite travel book and why favorite travel book? So yeah, I used to when I was younger, I used to get a, the lonely planet for everywhere. I was going to just to like see different, you know, like a little bit about each place that I’m going to, but to be honest with you, I don’t.

Yeah. I like my audio books and the reason I like these audio books, I’m going to mention, I think is when I was listening to them on the ice and I was super invested in them. [00:46:00] So I think for that reason, I’m going to, I’m going to pick these ones. So I listened to a lot of south Asian authors when I was in Antarctica.

I listened to the good immigrant, the UK and the U S version. I listened to Mindy Kayling and Nita, Ronnie. And I loved having that voice with me for so many different reasons. You know, I wondered if they had ever been to Antarctica before to anywhere, you know, like that. And that for me is actually quite powerful.

So. As I’m going forward on my next trips as well. I want to take different voices with me, you know, voices that may not have been to those places before. Amazing. I’m why are these adventures important? Why the important to me personally, I wanted to push my own mental and physical boundaries, you know? And that’s the truth, I think.

Yes, I, I, of course I want to inspire people, but I do have that personal drive as well and see, you know, what I’m capable of, but also I. [00:47:00] I want to show others that they are also capable of anything and I really want to make the outdoors as inclusive as possible. And you know, I’m seeing looking into now different things I can do to, to make that happen.

An adventure could be anything, you know, an adventure for me, you’re still camping in the garden with my niece. You know, an adventure can be on any scale and the outdoors for me and those adventures, it’s a place without judgment, which I love. And I think it can be so good for your mental health.

And I almost want people to, and you know, it’s not, you have to do these adventures, but almost give people with the. The kind of chance to realize that it is an option for them. Th the outdoors is for everybody. And, you know, I think a lot of people can gain something from it. Yeah. I couldn’t agree with you more.

I was speaking to a friend last week and [00:48:00] they want to go on a sort of big adventure. And I said, well, and she said, well, go camping, go walking, take a backpack and go walking. And then she’s like, oh, you know, a campaign that’s like, You know, you just go home, walk 10 miles camp in a field, then pick stuff up in the morning, walk 10 miles that way and go camp at a field.

And then come back two days where you’re just walking by yourself. You don’t have to worry about things. And then by that it sort of breaks down the first time you do it. It’s terrifying. Like wherever you are in the world. I think like my first time wild campaign was in America and I’d been told all these horror stories about America.

And then when I did it, you slowly just sort of built and now viewed if you said, oh, well, we’re just going to go down there 20 miles and camp. I’d just be like, oh cool. And then you get to a point and you’re like, cool, this looks great. Pitch a tent in the little Woodlands or something, and that’s that’s sort of anyone’s adventure.

Anyone can have that. So I couldn’t agree with you [00:49:00] more in that respect. It can be, it can be anything. Right. And yeah, I think so many times people say to me, especially now, oh, I’m going to do this, but it’s Noah. It’s not, you know, like anything that you did, I’m like, don’t, you know, One company with such also, it took me a long time to get to this point.

This wasn’t just a, an idea that I had also, you know, adventures, whatever we want it to be. It can be anything, you know, it, you know, for me, it has been a lot of the time pushing outside of my comfort zone. The first time I went camping was pushing outside of my comfort zone. And so, you know, it’s, like I said, again, it’s so easy to see the end result and, you know rather than how people got to where they are, In your lifetime, where is the most memorable place you’ve been and why?

Well, so Antarctica. Yeah, Antarctica was obviously an incredible place. But. So, yeah, I was going to say India. Maybe because that’s a bit of home to me. So I [00:50:00] haven’t been in a while now. I’ve been about 10, 11 times in total. But yeah, it’s, it’s a little bit of home to me. And I guess even before I started doing adventures or anything like that, You know, cause I, I think of being on an adventure as a simple life, and I remember when I’d go back, it would be back to the simple life, you know?

Which I love, you know, you, you know, squat to go to the toilet, you would, you know what I mean, use a generator to like you know, wash yourself, like it just, yeah. So I think probably India, if I’m honest with you and somewhere that, you know, I want to go back, hopefully again, soon. And see people and also travel because India is huge and I have not kind of traveled much around.

I think there’s so many incredible places along the world, around the world. Obviously Antarctica is an amazing place. I think just in, in terms of yeah, where kind of my heart is at probably, yeah, probably I’d [00:51:00] say India as, as one of the top places in a sort of wild campaign. And the most basic form of existence can be some of the most enjoyable times, just out on like a mountain camping with the most insane view or sunset you sort of look back and such happy memories.

And well, I was going to say, you know, you’ve got these big plans for the future. How can people follow your story? Yeah, of course. So everything’s polar Preet which is the thing I came up with when I started planning this. So polar Prix is on Instagram, Facebook the website, which the website actually does say I’m still in Antarctica.

So I need to change the homepage because I am not. But everything is on there. And you know, I, I. Yeah. As, as much as I can really and try, hopefully I try and be as honest as I can about my experiences and how I’m feeling. Yeah, which isn’t always great. But [00:52:00] then I think to myself that if you’re feeling a certain way, Good to be honest about it, because there’s a lot of people that are probably feeling the same way you are and can relate to that.

And, you know, I want to, I want to be as honest and real as possible because you know, to show that I wasn’t always here and we all have these feelings. Yeah. I agree. Well, pre it’s been an absolutely pleasure to listen to your stories today and I cannot thank you enough for coming. Thanks very much. No, thank you for having me.

It’s a, yeah, it’s great to talk to you. We’ll be following your journey in the future and for part two. Thanks very much. Thanks for listening. I hope you enjoyed the show and don’t forget to subscribe and review the podcast. If you’re listening on apple, a massive thank you to those who reviewed it.

And I hope to see you next week for another fascinating tell of adventure, but until then have a great day wherever you are in the. And happy adventures.

Belinda Kirk

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Belinda Kirk (Adventurer)

Belinda Kirk is an explorer and author who advocates the benefits of adventure. She has led many expeditions across countries like Nicaragua, Africa, China’s Desert of Death and the United Kingdom for over twenty-five years. Belinda’s most recent book is called ‘Adventure Revolution’ which explains why experience can be beneficial to our wellbeing. Drawing on lessons from leading groups into wildernesses and the latest findings in neuroscience as well as psychology, she shows how adventure can transform someone timid into a confident one or addicted ones into recovering ones; it breaks people lost down so they find their way again – purposely wandering through life rather than aimlessly living it out

She has led numerous youth development challenges, pioneered inclusive expeditions for people with disabilities and managed scientific research missions in the Amazon, Sinai and Alaska.

This is the last episode in Series One and a sneak preview into what Season Two offers. On the podcast today, we talk about her incredible life and how it got started. We delve into her story in the Amazon with immersive sound effects and music.

www.explorersconnect.com

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Transcript of our Conversation

Belinda Kirk

[00:00:00] hello and welcome to the modern adventurer podcast where explorers and adventurers tell their stories. I’m John Horseville. And on this weekly podcast, I talked to adventurers and explorers from around the world who have made remarkable and daring journeys in recent years from Everest climbers to polar explorers, world record holders, and many.

I hope this podcast, sparks ideas and inspires you to go on an adventure of your own, but what is left for the adventurers and explorers in the 21st century? Well, let’s find out my next guest is the creator and founder of explorers connect a website that connect explorers from around the world to go on expeditions together.

She is also an author and has done numerous expeditions over the years. I am delighted to introduce Belinda Kirk [00:01:00] to the podcast. Hi, thanks for having me. Absolute pleasure. It’s so good to have you on. We had a bit of trouble last week recording, but I am so thankful to get you back on to sort of talk about your story and some of the amazing stuff that you have done over the years, not in particular, sort of with explorers connect, which is connected.

So many people, you know, around the world to do adventures together who otherwise couldn’t we’ll probably jump into that, but I always like to start at the beginning and sort of about you and how you got into this line of work and these adventures that you do. Oh, it’s Dana. How far to go back? I think probably when I was a kid, I grew up in different places, but for a good few years, I was very lucky to grow up on.

Which is one of the channel islands and it’s a tiny little island. And so we, I had a completely free childhood there. There’s very few there’s very [00:02:00] little traffic and everyone kind of knows each other. There’s a lot of curtain twitching. So people didn’t worry about their kids running roaming about, you know And so I had a lot of freedom and I think I sort of always remember first becoming an Explorer when I was about seven, eight years old.

And I would go from my bike all day or I’d sort of explore the caves and all the there’s a lot of world war two bunkers and, and kind of in placements, battling placements and stuff there. So there’s all these kind of structures and I don’t know, dessert. Bits and bobs that you can kind of go and explore and also have this secret garden.

That was my favorite place to go. And I used to pretend I was like David Attenborough and I’d go there and record the plants and the animals and the insects. So I just had this incredibly free few years where I could just roam as a child. And I [00:03:00] think really that is, I think that set up something that freedom.

So. A outlook, but as always, I’ve always come back to when I, I kind of, we moved away from the channel islands several years later. And by the time I was about early teens, I’d kind of, I wasn’t really going outside very much, doing much adventure. But then Jacob Edinburgh award came up at my school and I just, I launched onto, I just knew I had to do it for the expeditions as well.

Mostly. I know that there’s lots of elements to it, but it was really the expedition part of it that drew me to it. And it lit a fire again about getting outside, exploring, going to places, finding things and doing things I’ve never done before. And that then led me on when I was 18 to going to Africa.

And having my F and joining my first proper expedition. And that was [00:04:00] really where everything changed. It was, I, I, I suppose in some ways, like many teenage girls, I had a real self-esteem problem. I had a, I was very low in confidence and going to Africa and actually surviving it and coming back and actually knowing that I’d done this thing, that I couldn’t even believe that I’d done myself.

I just, it just gave me incredible. Not only did I find something I loved, but it also gave me the confidence to go after what I now had found that I loved, which was to find a way to keep adventuring, to keep exploring to even to try to dream, to be an Explorer in some way. And so, yeah, Africa was the turning point.

I, if I can survive that, then I can do, and I can sort of, I could try it. I think it’s very true. I think we’re the adventures. You sort of go out into the unknown sometimes [00:05:00] with a slight sort of sense of naivety. And when you come back after sort of putting yourself sometimes three such extremes as sort of gives you the confidence that in everyday life, you can pretty much.

Not be invincible, but in terms of just build your confidence up to be able to achieve whatever you sort of set out to achieve something like, I don’t know for you was going to Africa. I don’t know for me was America. And while after doing those, you sort of come back like, oh, I, I did it. Was that the sort of feeling that you got?

Absolutely. And I think it’s one of the greatest gifts. Adventure gives us that you can’t get for much else in. That might, I might, I particularly, for example, love taking people on their first summit because you don’t even have to go to America or Africa or do anything quite that big because it is hard.

It’s a hard first step to do that. For financial reasons and everything. When I, when you take people to [00:06:00] top of the first mountain, They look out on the world differently. Their view of the world is different, but the view of themselves is different than the idea of, like you say, it’s the idea it, if I can do this, if I can climb a mountain or if I can go to America or Africa, then what else can I do?

And I think that’s an amazing, amazing thing to learn or to help someone else to find because then you approach everything in life differently. And your. I dunno. I can’t imagine anything else unlocking your potential in the same way. Yeah. I th I think it’s always that first step, which terrifies people, it’s, it’s actually, when you, when this is sort of why I sort of set up the podcast was, you know, the more you sort of speak to loads of those people, the more you sort of hear about it, the more I hope that people can sort of be like, oh, if they can all do it, then I’m sure I can.

It’s. [00:07:00] And that was sort of one of the things it’s actually, when you think about it, it’s slightly terrifying, but also quite exciting. And then you sort of, as soon as you take that first step, you suddenly realize it’s so much easier than you ever imagined. Yes. It’s either easier than you imagined or you completely fail, but it’s okay.

Because you also realize that failing is all wrong. I’m failing is the only way to be successful and to find out what you can do. So you either, like you say, you find out that you can do much more than you thought you could, but you don’t even have to succeed to get them to do it. I think. And also I think it’s important.

I, I give talks and stuff and there’s all, we’ve got all these amazing influences and people who give a of tools, but I think the kids. I’m like what I’ve always tried to do to explore as connect is getting the message across it. These aren’t [00:08:00] superhuman people. These are just people. The only difference between me and them and anyone else is that they’ve gone and done this stuff.

Anyone can actually go and do it. It’s like you say that first step that’s so hard. But if you can just mustard. If you can just find your way to make the first step, then I think you get this positive feedback, but every other step afterwards is easier. So that first big adventure, or maybe make it a smaller adventure, because then you’re more likely to do it and less likely to be put off by the fear of failing or the fear of like just it being a disaster.

Is it each time you do something, it, you kind of push yourself, you take it. And then you get this amazing feedback of achievement and confidence and everything else. And so every other adventure after all or anything else, that’s scary in life. Everything else after that is easy, slightly easier. Yeah.

I think you [00:09:00] know, I remember my first one was and like actually quite a few people. Like we had Leon McCarran on last time and you know, his first one was cycle touring and cycled. Taurine is like two different things you can do. As someone wants described to me as credit card Turing, where you carried nothing on your bike, other than like a crap, a credit card or debit card, you go and stay, you do it and you bomb around.

But if you actually in proper cycle touring with pioneers, you can live incredibly cheaply and you could do a week for, I don’t know, under a hundred pounds. Once you have the stuff in terms of doing that. Absolutely. I think people think you need a lot of money to do big trips. I think it depends what you’re doing.

If you’re going to the optical ocean rowing then yeah. Sailing. I mean, goodness, you’ll need millions, maybe not millions for ocean Rome, but you’ll need a lot of money. But if you’re doing so many other things [00:10:00] walking, cycling, it’s really depending on how you do it. And you can do. I suppose the other big challenge for people is time.

So you either have to get a sabbatical or quit your job. I mean, that’s the big one. And then you have to save the money beforehand and be brave enough to come back to England or wherever with no job waiting for you. But maybe I reckon if you go and do an adventure like that, you might not want to come back and do exactly what you were doing beforehand.

Anyway, you might want to change, but no, you don’t need masses of money. There’s a beauty to the simpler, the simpler you make. It. There’s a, there’s a beauty to that. A lot of people go on expeditions and try not to do it with all you know, not try not to do it where you just pay for everything, but you can try and bargain for staff work for.

You know, there’s amazing. I’m my next, the next thing I’m looking at is doing maybe books or trying with my families were thing that if you’ve heard about [00:11:00] woofing yes. The world organic farming. Is that the one? Yeah. Yeah. You basically go and work on an organic farm somewhere. Learn about farming and, and be part of a family.

And that doesn’t cost anything, you know? Okay. You have to fly out there. I know that’s not quite an expedition. Exactly. Like my pastor. It’s all adventuring and there’s, there’s just everywhere you look, you can find, you can either be inventive. That’s usually the way you have to do stuff to be going on the cheap, or you can eat there’s even these amazing things like woofing and stuff.

And there’s things like cold showers or hot showers, hot chaplains, warm showers. That’s it. There’s all these things out there that make it so much easier now. Yeah, so you definitely don’t need lots of. Yeah. And I suppose after you came back, was that the inspiration for you to start explore as connect came back from that first?

Oh no, no. [00:12:00] For about a decade, I worked doing all sorts of expeditions and some of my own personal challenges taking a lot of youth development expeditions, which is still the things I’m most proud of. Taking young people on expeditions and changing their path. Well, helping them to, they do the hard work.

I just sort of put them a bit. And then I worked in TV for about alongside that I worked for about 13 years. I worked in television setting expedition, sort of remote filming trips for bad grills. Ramirez, Chris Ryan, all sorts of natural history, filming with gorillas and all over the I’d say all sorts of stuff all over the place.

So my expedition skills transferred well to taking remote filming trips and being responsible for teams in remote areas that they weren’t on an expedition, but they kind of were, but they were [00:13:00] filming. So I’ve kind of, my career has always been around adventure, but I found, I love learning new stuff basically.

So I’ve found different ways to make a little. ’cause my, my number one is I want to have a varied life and have experiences and be rich and experiences. And money’s always come after that, or even much less than actually make friends and family come before. But it’s, it’s meant that my decisions haven’t been based on a career ladder.

It’s more like, oh, that sounds awesome. I want to do that. So I’ve had a mixture of expedition leadership. And remote film trip leadership, but also I was a diver for about a year. And I was a exhibition photographer for a little bit. And now I’m writing, I’ve written a book recently.

Dabbling in it. We’re not happily. I mean, it’s, it was really hard work and it is [00:14:00] hard where I’m still, I’m still progressing on that. But yeah. I do teaching as well, so I teach expedition leadership. And I used to teach navigation, all sorts of things, say different stuff. As long as I’m adventuring and as long as I’m learning new things, then I mean, 26 years I’ve been taking people on the bench.

So I’ve done all sorts of stuff under that. God. Absolutely amazing. And I suppose that’s, that’s, what’s given you such these rich experiences is the sort of varied job titles that you’ve done, and it’s allowed you to sort of travel all over the world for people listening, I suppose, how it sort of came to you with this and you got your expedition leader course, is that.

So what I did was I just, and I’m a great believer that this is still the best way to get into the expedition [00:15:00] industry is to build up experience. You, there are some great skills and qualifications that you need to get from the mountain leaderboard to first aid courses, and there’s all sorts of things at the IML.

And look, there’s all sorts of wonderful qualifications, and you should look into that. But I think you have to pair that with experience and way back when I started, there were less, there was less of a focus on qualifications. There were less qualifications around, it was more about where have you been?

What have you done? Who have you been responsible for? So what I did was my first exhibition. I simply saved up. I worked all sorts of part-time on jobs at university and stuff saved up and after university just worked up as much money as I could to pay to go to Africa. Then I came back from that and I thought, right, I need to, I got this, I got this very clear [00:16:00] equation in my head.

If I can get paid, even if it’s small amount to go on expeditions, if I can make a living going on exhibition. I can go on expeditions all the time. Whereas if I go and get a job and pay to go on expeditions, I can only do it like once a year or so. And so it was like, right, I’ve got to just somehow become valuable to people that they’ll pay me to be on these expeditions.

So I just did more and more expeditions. And initially I paid, then I got some of my expenses paid, but my flights paid and then I got my insurance and my flights paid. And then I started getting paid a little bit on top of the. Until I became useful and then people would seek me out and go, can you take this team to pack them gone?

Does it in China or wherever? So I think if you, once you get to know weird places as well, and you’ve taken teams into unusual places where no one else has people come to you from different areas going from different industries. And can you help us get here? So. I [00:17:00] just, I kind of did an apprenticeship and I think that’s a great way of doing it.

Make your mistakes on your own time, because once you’re responsible for the people, you need to know what you’re doing. You don’t want to be messing up. Yeah. Very true. And what would you think the sort of one expedition that really has stuck out for you over the years that has sort of transformed either your lives or someone that you’ve taken with you?

Oh, it’s hard to pick one all so hard to get what, probably three immediately spring to mind my first ever expedition. And that was to Africa that we’d sort of talked briefly about that changed my life. And I think your first adventure is always so important also an expedition. I I was part of the, I led a team to the PSU to that’s where I met my partner.

Jim who’s, we’re still together. 25 years later or something [00:18:00] a long time ago we sat and got married, but that we’ll do that eventually. So, but also any, probably all in any youth development expeditions that I’ve been involved with and probably the Amazon sticks out the most for me. And it’s the most, it’s got the most fond memories, both because for me it was a huge step in the career ladder, I suppose.

I was 26 years old and I was the youngest chief leader, the British exploring society though, perhaps. So for me, it was a massive thing to lead this expedition, but also because it totally made clear to me how important adventuring and expeditions are and how life-changing and transformational are they are and how we need them.

And it made me evangelical after that about the power of adventure. And the expedition [00:19:00] basically was 20 years ago, I think now probably crazy. Thank you. It’s that long ago? I had led some expeditions, some small, some smaller teams for the British exploring society. Before that I had a lot of jungle experience.

I’d probably been doing jungle expeditions eight years. And I particularly focused on jungle expeditions from stone. I suppose. That’s where I started or just because I was a biologist by training and I love animals. I love being in a. Some people hate jungles because they’re so alive, but I love them because they’re alive.

Okay. I don’t like parasites. Like anyone, nobody likes digging things out of your legs and stuff, but but that’s just part of it. Isn’t it us department, sometimes it’s not the end of the world. I got this, this position. I had 120 people. 70 [00:20:00] of them were young, British explorers. 20 were Peruvian, local young people.

And then the rest of the team we’re made up of all of the staff that I had to follow and which included jungle leaders and people with sort of real jungle survival skills to lead the teams, but also scientists by UK. And also, I really wanted a lot of previous scientists as well. So we worked with the university.

The local university and my favorite guy, Dr. Luquillo. He was he was my, he was just a fantastic guy at the university there in a ketose and opened all the doors. And we, we worked on all the science together to really make it impactful and meaningful. And so the science we were doing out there could be incorporated into all sorts of longer long-term studies that they were doing at the university as well.

We were doing so what I, what I did with this 120 people basically is that they all [00:21:00] worked in different groups spread around the Pacaya Samiria reserve. And they were some were studying bats because we have this expert Ben, and so we were doing back studies. We were doing also long-term studies on the birds that were incorporated with B.

The previous scientists also the pink river dolphins. They, we were surveying them all sorts of amazing biological survey, survey survey going on. And we were out there. I can’t remember exactly, I suppose, at about six or seven weeks. The idea of the expedition, they are, they’re pretty exploring society is very much about youth development.

And for me, it was really important that a, we included the local people in what we were doing. So it was meaningful, but also, but also they said that we would create a project that was really useful and not just part of youth development, which is important, but there’s something extra. [00:22:00] So our two aims of the expedition with.

Show these young people that they could do more than they CA they thought they could. But also this work with the scientific research. Now, this is the part of the podcast where we jump into the story and head over to Peru and into the Amazon rain forest. We joined Belinda at the start where she setting everything up in camp and join her as her journey.

Yeah, we got all of our base camps in, we’ve got everything sort of set up. Some of the, some of the teams were actually working from boats because it was flooded forest. So some of the lucky teams got to level and he’s amazing. I dunno, it’s a bit like, I didn’t know how to explain them. These Amazon riverboats, that beautiful boats, they’d all sling their hammocks underneath in this big open space in the.

More informed about the bottom rung of the boat I space, but I’m left with the boat and then live on the top. That’d be sort of the kitchen and stuff, [00:23:00] rudimentary kitchen, not that, but there was these beautiful boats at some that two of the teams were moving on and they were doing the stuff like the river dolphin work.

This up has to be assessable. We got all the logistics set up based from set up and then the team’s feeling. With all the young people. My job then was to just kind of make sure all the teams were doing okay. And I, I loved this part of the trip, but it was part of the expedition because I would, I would go out and visit each of the groups and just check the leaders where I okay.

Check the young people are okay. Her team would Trek out and being a scientific expedition. It gave her an idea. The opportunity to experience some of the most amazing wonders that the Amazon rain forest had to offer some of the groups on boats or somewhere on these jungle counts. So I’d be, I’d walk out to the junk accounts [00:24:00] that might take a day or two, some were back lifting.

So they were doing different things. So the Butler thing team, I really loved going that was really fun because they would get up in the dark, not necessarily the time, but they’d do a lot they’re netting obviously night. So they would have these huge. And that’s that they’d set up in the day and then we would check them in the day and check that there was no tears or whatever.

We’d we’d go back out as it was becoming dusk. And we’d start to collect as the bats would fly into the next week, you’d have gloves on and stuff. We’d measure them weigh them. Became quite good at, but that’s identification, sex them and all of those sorts of things. What I loved about that was being usually when you work in jungles, you te you are active in the day, and then you, you get your wet pits.

You’ve got your dry, who is wet and stinky and [00:25:00] damping your wet. And then you take that off. You get into your camp, you set up and all you you’ve already got. You put your hammock up, you put your dry kits on, you get straight into bed. The best thing about jungles is you have masses of sleep. It’s wonderful.

It’s the best thing about jungle expeditions. You just don’t move at night in jungles. It’s just not, it’s just not the way I was trained. I was trained by a lot of military. Most of my expression training has come from ex military people. So you just don’t. There’s no need to move and you can’t get much done.

Anyway, you’ve bound to walk into something not nice if you’re operating in. So, but what was really different for me, it was like we actually had to do stuff in the dark and it was like, this is really quite exciting and interesting, but also risk assessment wise. It’s like, oh, terrifying. So we have these really strict principles about Ritz and, and just protocols, how you move and so on and so forth, because it’s really easy to get lost in the jungle anyway, but in the [00:26:00] dark it’s even worse.

But we would check her out to these different backlifting areas and checklist bats, and there’d be small teams of us. And then we’d go round, swap in, wake up another set of another team. They all, hopefully they should be ready already. They’d think go back to the back nursing. Once we’d caught enough, we didn’t go all night.

We’d take the buckets down. We didn’t want to touch backs and just leave them there. And so it was this exciting. And because the guy who was that, the particular scientists for that particular team, he was real, he was out a real incredible passion for bats. Like he was missed the backbone basically, and his whole PhD and his MSC and everything he’d done after that was all very much about bats or it he’d worked all over the world doing that stuff.

So it was really it’s very exciting to work with people who are knowledgeable about. Yeah, it was just very exciting [00:27:00]for the young, for me, but also obviously for the young people, but in such a hostile place with such a big young team to look after something was bound to give. And Belinda soon had trouble ahead for one of her girls.

So the scale got better and I hope to to get her own. I actually, I think I had to call the flying doctors from that one. So we had to walk to them. There is. And then the flying doctors came because I couldn’t take a day and a half to walk her back. We had to get her a big nasty injection in her stomach at the hospital.

I don’t know if it’s this now, but back then, even if you’d had your rabies jab, if you’d gotten bitten by something like that, one thing that could have rabies, you’d have to have this like booster I spade. And back then it was this nasty, massive needle in your stomach. And so. But I just said, we’ve got to get to hospital, have an injection.

So we got this. So she was really excited because she was [00:28:00] going to get me. I’m flying doctors, airplane. So me and her flew off on this amazing, you know it, the airplane came in, landed on the water. We got in flew off to the airstrip at the hospital. And he actually said, I don’t normally, but I’ll bring you back.

Unless a call comes in, you’re going to be getting her back, going to take you a week to take your days to get back. It was like excellent. Right. Even if we wait on the airstrip and you have enough things, if we can get lift back, one thing I really that’s really important when you’re doing expedition planning is try and make.

Get a rapport with your emergency people, because there’s one thing, cooling people when you’re in dire straits saying, we need help, but if they’ve met you beforehand, they know what you’re there for. You’re there with a bunch of young people, you know, and you get rapport with them. They will always go the extra mile, I think.

Anyway, so we went into the hospital, this poor [00:29:00] girl lay down on the bed and I sort of said, So actually these injections going to be in your stomach, but the doctor will come and explain the rest. And I just want to going to pass over that needle was enormous. I mean, I was even, I was just like, oh, try not to look.

Shocked, but bless blesser. She had the injection everything was fine and I got shot. I can’t remember if we stayed. I’m pretty sure we just said, look, if anything happens, come back. But I think we just left basically. They made sure that we actually didn’t have a reaction to meet immediately.

We were back on the plane a couple of hours later. And back into the answer, the teams all had fantastic names, like, like the Spanish words for things like Delta, like dogs. See two could, I think they were the two can group and yeah, we got back. She had a tale to tell thankfully didn’t get in trouble with her parents when we all got back to England.

[00:30:00] I suppose that needle is enough to put anyone off ever going to the jungle, but throughout the six weeks they grew as a team. And now they were experiencing so much by the river. Well, I love doing on the riverboat teams, particularly. It was, we did some Cayman survey and so Cayman come out again at night.

Actually, there’s a theme here. I haven’t realize I liked getting into. But what you would do in order to find them is we’d go out and on this floor pecky packages, which are kind of dug out canoes and some had outboard motors and some didn’t mostly, we use the ones we’d just paddled. But I think for Cayman survey, we have to have at least one with with a mater.

And so we’d go out and we’d we’d shine. You shine a torch into the forest along the riverbanks, trying to. And what you do is you basically get this. I shown there was a specific size and color. You’d be like, [00:31:00] right. That’s a Cayman I’m actually, if you kept your torch on the Cayman in, on this side shine, they would kind of friends.

So then we would get closer and closer and closer stick. We have this big stick with the last few on the end and then last to its net and pull it into the boat, which sounds a bit stupid. You got teenagers, right? We did have like all the right scientists are helping us do it, but like the whole point was that the teenagers learn how to do it as well.

So we all had to go, but you, you, you drank it in. And this was all done for scientific research. This wasn’t done in humanely, but then you’d pull water. You kind of massage it stomach and pull water down it stomach. Yeah. I mean, T T to town, they’d probably find. So they’re quite happy. It take a few of you and you’d like, tick them over enough to then wash out their stomach contents survey.

What they’re reading now I did was to find out what were these guys eating? [00:32:00] And the university of previous Amazon, which is university working with Dr. Luquillo, particularly his fate. His main thing was this long-term study on the different came in in the area and what makes it, so we have this amazing team in the end.

Teenagers from like London or whatever I’m doing by the end of the expedition, they all learn. They’re all different jobs into how to do this and they were doing it themselves. And you would watch these like 18 year olds or whatever. You’d never been to the jungle before. And they were like catching Cayman, S muscle GMs, stomachs, and like doing this incredibly important science work and just owning it.

And I love that. I love the font, but. I was all, it’s all about facilitation. That’s the big, big buzzword. When you work with any of these organizations at the beginning of the expedition, you are in charge, you meet everyone, you met and [00:33:00] feel comfortable. Hopefully you train them. You, you start to you at first.

You just try to win trust and make them feel confident enough not to just put, to go home. Cause it’s all terrible. But what you want to do is over time is facilitate as much as possible. The idea that they own the exhibition. This is what these expeditions are all about, making people own it, and that can have a transformative effect on them.

Give them the competence to tackle anything. And six weeks in the hostile jungle can do just that. There was this particular girl called. And she had really struggled from day one. She was, I suppose, the person I had, she was the young person that I’d put the most time in. I had the most trouble with was most concerned for cause I didn’t want him to give up, but she had a [00:34:00] history of a long, she had a history of self harm and so on.

So she had. And she had not, she had, she wasn’t quite fitting in at school with everything. So she had some, she had, she was, she was struggling at home. So she came to the expedition and she didn’t quite fit in straight away. Most people were trying to like make friends straight off and, you know, you want to find your little band because it’s all very scary.

The whole thing is so new to everyone and she really struggled. So I could see that this was a problem. I didn’t know her background at the time. I didn’t know that she’d had self-harming. I I could just tell that she wasn’t fitting in quickly at the start and say I did what I could to try and incorporate her into her team and that wasn’t working.

So initially, eventually I said, right, here’s an actual job. This is a job that involves you talking to all of the team [00:35:00] members and facilitating and taking on responsibility for prepping the all science work. Right. Sort of logistics to the planning for the team to, to have all the right kit to go out with for the science and also actually for the bed for that camp.

And so she had to talk to every team member, make sure that everyone had the right stuff, but also between them that as a team, they had everything and she, she took on the role and it really, you could see that it was really helping her. She started to make a few more bonds and she was she was talking to people more.

And so it helped her to make those first steps that she was finding. She was struggle. It’s having this job. Weeks later, I went out to her expedition camp and we walked out and I found this young woman striding around the camp, bossing everyone around. And I was like that soundless. And I was like, that is not the girl I met on the plane.

That is this wow [00:36:00] versa. She was quite bossy. It was quite good. When she she’d found like this confidence that she had. She, she obviously well she told me she never had that sort of, she’s never been given that sort of responsibility knowing to trust the terror at schools with anything like that.

And she was like, yeah, I really enjoyed it actually. So then I wanted to be the camp manager and I took that on as well. And as she was, she would kind of, she was basically the other leader in the leader team by this point. And she was really she was really running things. And you could tell that that the team members not only respected.

But also they liked her for it, you know? And, and she liked herself for it as well. I think we come back and then after we’ve all come home back to Britain six months later, or so we all meet up and have this gathering at school and that’s at the Royal geographical society. And you present your exhibition.

I was everyone was stood in the queue, in the rain. And I was saying hi to all the, all the, all the [00:37:00] team. Cause I hadn’t seen him since. And this woman came up to me and she said what have you done to my daughter? And also on that, this is the Batman, this is the, this is the mom of tobacco. Or maybe it’s one of the kids you’ve got malaria.

And maybe she’s like, I couldn’t, you can’t stop kids. Somebody going to get married. You know, we gave all the light prophylaxis and all that, but I was like, I’m in trouble. And then she just gave me this enormous heart. And also I like. And I was just really confused for a second or so. And then she said Alice has just completely changed.

And Emma herself she’s found herself was something like that. Just come out of herself when she found herself. I can’t remember the exact words, but I just remember him saying, what have you done to my daughter? And then hugging me. And I was like, Alice. Oh. And so six months later, she explained to me how Alice was now doing really well.

Because she was [00:38:00] making, she she’d made some friends, her, even her grades come up, not that’s the priority, I don’t think. But she had started to really build her confidence had built. And so therefore she had, she was happy in herself and life was going better for her. And she was saying she helps out at home with all the chores and without being asked and just her general happiness level of.

And how she was approaching the life and therefore how she was going to go through luck. And it was such an extraordinary moment for me because I thought it’s not just me, that my life has been changed by in searches and expeditions. And it’s not just on expedition that I see these incredible cancellations it’s long lasting.

You can actually impact people’s journey through life, through these wonderful expeditions. And it was an, it was a big moment for me. So I was like, no, there’s something to this. And I really want to understand it. [00:39:00] And I spent the next 10 years trying to understand it. And that’s why I bet she wrote a book about why adventure is so essential for wellbeing, because I couldn’t, I just, I think we don’t in our world, in our society now we don’t appreciate.

You know why adventure is so good for us and what an incredible opportunity it is. And it doesn’t have to be a big expedition, even smaller adventures close to home. You know, there’s this wonderful opportunity for personal and personal development and, and healing and transformation. And and I’ve all, I’ve seen that for 26 years, I’ve seen that of all sorts of ages and backgrounds.

I’ve seen that transformation through adventure. And so that’s where I think that’s where I really, I, the first time I was like, I am now going to, I’m going to tell everyone about why they should be going on exhibitions. That was the most incredible story. And now we [00:40:00] circle back to our conversation that Belinda and I had about this expedition and something that I don’t think people really understand until they’ve sort of done it in a sense.

And that sort of story of Alice is just such an amazing story to sort of tell because it’s sort of. People the understanding of just how powerful to go on. I don’t know, one of these trips or to go outside your comfort saying can do to your confidence and your own self-esteem. Yeah, it really is. And I think at that moment it was all about expeditions.

I set up explores connect. Cause I said, I was, I was always telling people, expeditions, change your life. Everyone should do one expedition, at least in their life because it will. It will empower you. It will show you what you can do. It’ll change, it’ll help you. So I was all, I always used to say, expeditions change lights, and but then over the years, [00:41:00] as I’ve understood it more and I’ve done smaller adventures and take people on small adventures, not just big expeditions it’s adventure, it’s this idea of choosing a challenge, a very natural challenge, choosing the unknown, going into the unknown, the great unknown knowingly, you know, choosing.

And also this idea of choosing adversity, because an adventure is not an adventure, unless you’re cold and wet and hungry or something at some point the type to find exactly. And so I think there’s this. Yeah, there’s this wonderful opportunity to to go on an adventure. And I think if you’re the same.

Yes, I we’ve got terrible. We have a real mental health crisis in the, in the country at the moment, but we also have a health crisis, physical health crisis. And I think you can, you’re all under so much pressure to like go to the gym or eat less sugar do all this stuff. And it’s a little bit boring [00:42:00] and a bit, a bit difficult to do because you don’t really want to do that.

So I hate to do. But going on an adventure, this will help you physically and mentally. Oh, okay. That’s a bit more in depth and it’s a bit more inviting, isn’t it. And I actually went to get once, as you say, once you do one you’re hooked, you have to go on these things. You know, whether it be small ones regularly or big ones, every, I think you need a big expedition like that.

Every turning point in your life like, you know, getting married, having kids, all of these, these big turning points in life, you should go on a big expedition to kind of redefine you and what’s Kate you’re capable of and what you want in life and your values. So that, yeah, it’s no matter what size of adventure you need.

It’s such, there’s a great opportunity out there to be your best self, to live your best life through adventuring and. What a nice thing to do. It’s fun. It’s absolutely [00:43:00] amazing. And you know what a story and for anyone listening, you know, it really shows the power of the sort of trips and these expeditions.

There’s a part of the show where we ask the same five questions to each guest each week. With the first being on these trips and expeditions, what’s the one gadget that you always take with you? Very exciting. I used to take a pen knife on every exhibition and then hardly ever used one off the time.

Joe, I’ve got my favorite water bottle. It’s all exciting. You always need water. My water bowl is this old SIG bottle. It is battered and busted, but it means the world to me because it’s been with. Since I was 18, I spent on pretty much every expedition with me. Let’s say funny, so’s mine. Mine’s like a red SIG bottle.

That’s got every sort of puncture from being dropped in the mountain to be stood on, you know, all these sort of markers of each [00:44:00] adventure. Really? Yeah. Mine’s red as well. It’s a red symbol is battered. Got the story. Absolutely battered. What about your favorite adventure or travel book? Oh, do you know, probably the one that impacted me.

Ha I mean, there’s so many, but just pick one that pops into my mind into the wild. I’m a great fan of that, but it’s extraordinary journalism and extraordinarily written, but it’s mostly because the story is just, I don’t know. It’s about Chris McCandless and. I think it’s a, it’s a, it’s a story. It’s a very sad story, obviously, but it’s a story that we can all learn from, I think.

And I think that something about that book made me realize I’m not the only one who has this yearning to be in the wild to, I don’t know. I think it speaks to every age [00:45:00] or, sorry. I think it is timeless and speaks to every generation. I’m not swiped still out there because it’s it doesn’t it doesn’t age.

It’s it’s it’s got a very important message. Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s a re I think, you know, we all have that yearning to be in nature and, you know, over the blast as human beings over the last sort of 200 years, we’ve sort of moved out of nature into more urban environments and. You know, it’s slightly unnatural.

And I think every, a lot of people have that yearning to get back to that sort of natural habitat in a sense. Does that make sense? I’m not sure. Yeah, no, it sounds like you’re reading from my book. I completely agree. Then it tightly, we are, it is the most natural thing in the world going into venture and to spend time in nature, I think, especially in wild nature though.

And wild, uncontrolled, unknown. And [00:46:00] it’s why when you see those tents, when you see those pictures from 50 years ago and like nothing’s changed in those no houses and they cities have been built on it. You’d take a pitch from 19 50, 2 hour and 2020, so 70, but you know, 70 years later, it’s still exactly the same.

Yeah, that picture quality picture, but that’s all. Well, there’s probably, this probably leads on nicely to your book, but why are adventures important to you? To me, adventure has changed my life and continues to obviously there was the, when I was 18, it totally changed my path through life. I think I’d have been a very self I’d had a very sensible career.

If I hadn’t gone to. I’d be like a solicitor or a doctor, and those are great jobs and we need those people, but it’s not who I wanted. It’s not actually the authentic me, that wasn’t where I wanted to really go. But I think I would have been sensible [00:47:00] if I hadn’t gone to Africa. So Africa and adventure has shown me the confidence to, to go after what I want, but it’s also given me the authenticity to find my own voice.

So adventure to me personally. It’s an essential part of my life and continues to be because even recently I have taken, I became a parents. I’ve got little one becoming a parent is an enormous life change. And I took my own advice from my Birkin, from my research, but I, we needed as a family to go away.

We needed to step outside of every day, we needed to go and do a challenge that brought us together to do something that we were doing together. And we started walking across the Canary islands. As a family we’ve never been closer and, you know, the destination was for us to, to become a [00:48:00] strong the family and to improve the relationships between us.

We were doing pretty well, but like my, my partner, Jim, and. Never been closer and I’d say we, all of us, all of us have, we’ve all changed from it. So adventure is an essential part of living my best life, our best life. And I think past that and talking about that, encouraging other people to understand, helping other people to understand that right in my book about it, so that we understand that we give adventure time.

Adventure is important for me because it, it feels like the meaning of my life is to put back, put that back as well is to help other people see that encourage other people to do adventuring through explores connect. It’s all through reading the book and going, okay. I’m going to make time for some adventures just to see if this works.

Yeah, meaning it’s given me great meaning. Nice. And [00:49:00] what about your favorite quote?

Any questions, travel. Oh gosh, I can’t think of one, one that I quoted to someone recently because I keep having to sell myself. This is cause I I’m a worrier I have to, I can really get into anxiety if I’m not careful. So adventures been part of the reason why I’m quite, I’m better at dealing with that.

And mark Twain had a great. I’m probably going to misquote this, but I just had someone recently, most of the things I’ve worried about in life never happened. And this idea that we can spend so much time stressing about things going wrong and they w you know, they probably won’t even go wrong. You know, instead think about all the things that could go, right.

So go be brave. Do stuff, jump on an adventure, even though it’s probably not the best, most sensible thing, because mapping sense, poor living life is why we’re here. Not about being. [00:50:00] And just, yeah. Any of the worries that you’re worrying about and they probably won’t even happen. So just might as well just go and go for it.

Yeah. It’s something like 85% of the things you worry about. One won’t happen and two completely out of your control. So yeah. Might as well try and control the things you can control and not worry about this stuff. Either you can’t control it probably wouldn’t happen anyway. Yeah. People listing always keen to travel and go on these sort of grand adventures.

What’s the one thing you would recommend to people wanting to get started?

Because procrastination is let’s face it. We all do it. It’s human nature. It took me seven years to write my book. I’ve been talking about this stuff. About eight years, nine years. It took me seven years to actually write the book. And that’s only because COVID the lock to be down. Procrastination is a disastrous thing and it will keep you from living.

So just do something, book the flight today, or [00:51:00] do something, just make, if, if it’s too intimidating, what you have in your head, then do something smaller, but make some steps, do something. I think the key is just to start don’t plan and think. Whatever procrastinate, just do. Just commit. Do you know, once you bought the ticket, once you’ve quit your jobs and in your resignation letter asked for sabbatical, you didn’t have to quit the job you asked for a sabbatical or whatever it is.

Once you’ve told everyone I’m doing it, that’s a great way to do it. Tell everyone you’re going to do something. Then the embarrassment of the social embarrassment of not doing it is greater than the actual fear of doing it. So sometimes it makes you get on and get on with it. Tell everyone, right, I’m going to do this.

And that’s it on Facebook. Tell all your friends in the pub, then you’ll have to go there. There’s a weird psychology behind that. Sometimes it’s something like they get, there was a study done and they gave, you know, 15 people they’d have to tell them. [00:52:00] That they’re going to do it. And then six months later, they’d find out if they actually did it.

And another 15 who were told whatever you do, do not tell anyone, write it down and go into it. And they found that people who didn’t tell anyone actually had a higher success rate of actually going out and going to achieve it. It’s a very sort of, it’s really weird psychology behind her. I’d love to read that.

My way of catching myself from not being, letting fare, beat me is just to tell people I’m doing something. And it’s often, you know, usually after gin and tonics and we’re getting right, we’re going to get right around Britain. And then I’m kind of like, Ooh, I have to do that. But that’s interesting that you found something that says maybe it works well.

It’s, it’s, it’s weird because like we had Jody Stewart on episode four, who said, you know, like once you book the flight, that’s a great motivator or put down the deposit on something. That’s a [00:53:00] great motivation. But just telling people, apparently the sort of psychology behind it is that your mind has already told you that you’re doing it.

And that sort of sense of elation or whatever it is in your head has already come about rather than waited.

It’s.

Because you still have to get over this embarrassment of telling everyone, oh, actually I never, we never got to the start line. I suppose things that are B you think might be beyond you or something by today, maybe that’s when it works best. Oh, I’ll tell when there’s no going back in a sense, like you’ve booked the flight or you’re ready to go, and then you tell people, so there’s no sort of, oh, I can’t get out of this.

Yeah for me, definitely. It still works. If, once I start telling people I’m doing it, [00:54:00] it’s like, it’s part of reinforcing. Yeah. I can do this. I’m going to do that. Let’s just do it. Okay. Let’s do it. But maybe it works with certain things, not others, but adventure stuff. It seems to it taking on big adventures.

It always seems to have worked for me anyway. Yeah. I know I’ve different, different food, different people. I sort of agree with you on that. Definitely sounds like it’s the better thing to do. The main thing is get started. Isn’t it just get on with. I’m a great, I think Heelan’s procrastinate because fear gets in the way and also stuff busy busy-ness gets in the way.

So, you know, our society is so busy. It’s like, it’s a nightmare, isn’t it? So you just have to make the space for it. Now you have to do something now. Otherwise it won’t happen. Yeah. Very true. And finally, what are you doing now? And how can people follow you in the future? I’m doing I’m doing lots of ventures, my little lawn.

[00:55:00]I’m I’m, I’m running a few courses. I, I’m talking a lot wherever I can and, and spreading the world word wherever I can about the power of adventure for wellbeing. So I’m doing a lot of speaking and bits and bobs like that. Incredibly interesting meetings with people trying to get.

To get change to happen, basically to get adventure into our society in a more structured way, protects it, essentially. So all sorts of things like that, I’m still running explorers connect. That’s all about helping people to find other people for expeditions and adventures. I’m running a few small adventures of my own that I take people on as well.

But I, I, I, I don’t even want a few of those nowadays while my little one saved little so lots of things, but it’s all very adventure-based I’m on all the social medias things explore [00:56:00]what is it at? Explorable Linda also, you can contact me through explorers connect. Yeah, my books out there it’s on all the usual platforms.

Kindle or audio book, aura, or I happy to send you a signed version? Yeah, may see. I’m just, I’m being a mom and I’m trying to get the word out there. That adventure is important to our wellbeing because I think there’s a great opportunity that we are missing out on. And it’s a fun opportunity. Yeah, that’s mostly what I’m doing.

Well, we’ll leave a link in the description to explore as connect your, your book and your Instagram account so people can find you there and yeah. Go check out her book. The adventure revolution, adventure revolution, and well, Belinda, it’s been such a pleasure listening and talking to you today and I can’t thank you enough for.

It’s been great. It’s been really [00:57:00] nice to reminisce about Amazon. It’s been a, it’s been a heck so long time. It’s been really fun to think about it. It’s an incredible story. Thank you. Thank you for listening with that episode, that draws a line under season one, and it’s a little snippet into what season two has done.

This podcast has always been about letting people tell their stories. And with the new season, just around the corner, it will be a new format and a new style, but at the heart of it, there’ll be letting people tell their story, exciting adventures all around the world, but until then have a great day and happy adventures. .

Leon McCarron

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Leon Mccarron (Author)

Leon McCarron is a writer, broadcaster and adventurer – originally from Northern Ireland, he now calls Iraq home. Now based in Iraq, he uses storytelling to address the myriad misconceptions around this country and its people. Leon’s championing of ‘slow travel’ has taken him across China on foot, walking through the Empty Quarter Desert and riding across Patagonia on horseback.

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On today’s podcast, Leon talks about what home means and the importance of relationships and nuance in parts of the world that Western media often demonises or misunderstands.

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Transcript of our Conversation

Leon McCarron

[00:00:00] We woke up in the morning. And his village was just the most pictures place I can ever imagine of this little garden outside. And these windows, I could see it as soon as I opened my eyes, you know, lift my head from the pillow. I could see just these beautiful mountains, slightly dusted and snow just beyond his little garden, his little fruit trees.

And he had some breakfast and he said, well, Let’s go, let’s go walking there. And he was this old guy, this old military guy, very peaceful, very Zen had the most incredible prodigious mustache and and he just took us out and we spent the day just walking around in those mountains on these beautiful old trails that were all, you know, just really hundreds of years of.

Human activity on them. Hello and welcome to the modern [00:01:00] adventurer podcast where explorers and adventurers tell their stories. I’m John . And on this weekly podcast, I talk to adventurous and explorers from around the world who have made remarkable and daring journeys in recent years from Everest climbers to polar explorers, world record holders, and many more.

But what is left for the adventurers and explorers in the 21st century? Well, let’s find out, but before we start, if you haven’t already please subscribe. And if you listen on apple podcast, please leave a review. If you’ve enjoyed the show so far, a massive thank you to those who reviewed it. That is Mr.

Se from Canada and speed jury and S prose who recently commented and reviewed the podcast. So thank you. Right on with the show. My next guest is an award-winning writer, broadcaster and Explorer from Northern Ireland. He has traveled over 50,000 kilometers [00:02:00] by human powered means and is currently based out in Iraq on the podcast.

Today, we talk about some of his expeditions and about is doing in Northern Iraq to bring tourism to the country. So I am delighted to introduce Liam MC Mccarin to the podcast. Thanks so much. It’s a pleasure to be here. Well, it’s absolutely great to finally get you on. You’re currently out in Iraq at the moment.

And what I absolutely love about your story is just over the years, how. You’ve been talking about these countries, which we’ve sort of spoke about before, about sort of how they’re unrepresented in the sort of Western media and show a completely different side, as well as the sort of kindness of strangers.

We’ll get into some of your trips in a moment. But before I start, I always like to sort of get to know the sort of person. So for the audience. Why don’t you tell them sort of a bit about yourself and how you got to where you are now? [00:03:00] Sure. Okay. Well, it was kind of an organic journey, I suppose, where I am now.

I’m from Northern Ireland. Originally. I grew up there. I was very fortunate to have quite a. A wild, rural childhood. I grew up in a farm close to the ocean. And so I always loved the outdoors, but I didn’t travel much. I, you know, going to Belfast was a big deal. And when it came to the point of. Going to university.

I, I was desperate to, you know, skip and go somewhere far, far away. And the furthest place that I could think of was Kent. So I went to the south of England and while I was there, I, I sort of realized that the, the world was much bigger than what I’d seen. You know, even though I’d not crossed the water and been to England.

So I, I. [00:04:00] I was studying English and film. And I knew I wanted to do something creative. I knew I wanted to tell stories. I knew I was interested in, in people, but I, I felt like I, I didn’t really know enough about the world or myself to, to do any justice to try and tell story. I didn’t have any stories to tell.

So I wanted to figure out some way to, to educate myself outside of academia The idea I came up with was to buy bicycle and ride it as, as far as I could across places that interested me. So I saved up for a year bought a bike flew to New York city and then started cycling west and I rode across north America.

And then I rode from Canada to Mexico and over the course of a year and a half, almost two years, that journey took me. You know, New Zealand, Australia, Southeast Asia. And eventually I, I ran outta money [00:05:00] and my glorified gap year was over. And so I, I came back home, but it, it, it completely changed my life because it’s it gave me a lot more confidence in myself and who I was.

So I, I, I understood that I could be a lot more capable old and I’d felt I wasn’t really a cyclist. I was quite naive. And Nervous anxious about the world before that journey. It told me that most people that I would meet are good and kind and willing to help out a stranger. And it also gave me a, a sense of purpose.

I realized that by traveling slowly, in that case on a bicycle, I went to places that other people often didn’t. And so I. Was engaged in conversations and meetings and experiences that maybe not a lot of other people had. And, and so I could write about those or I could make films about those. And and my career kind of developed from there.

And that was 2010. So the last 12 years I’ve been I’ve spent about seven or eight of those years going in [00:06:00] expeditions cycling, walking, kayak, almost always human powered. I’ve traveled about. 30 35,000 miles by human power. And I write books and make films, do some TV, some radio, lots of different ways to share the stories that I find.

And now I live in the Kurdistan region in Northern Iraq. Okay. I, I think it’s so FA fascinating because your first, as you say, big trip was cycling across America. Which is mine too, was your sort of idea behind that because like, I dunno if it was similar to you, but I had never ridden very much in my life.

It was just about buying the bike and using it as a form of transport to get off the road into the sort of back country into the sort of Midwest was sort of similar with you. Were you a big cyclist before you did that trip? No, not at all. I was very similar to you. The bicycle was [00:07:00] a, a tool to help me explore.

It was the, I, I, I, I think initially I’d had this idea that I’d watched this TV show with you and McGregor and Charlie Borman of long way round, where they went around the world of motorbike and I saw that and I thought, oh, that’s pretty cool. You know, it would be, it would be cool to be like you and McGregor and have a motorbike and, you know, go around making jokes and getting filmed.

And and then I realized that I wasn’t sort of had some Hollywood star, I wasn’t wildly wealthy and I couldn’t ride a motorbike. So I, that’s kind of how I came to a budget aver on a bicycle. And, you know, in the end it worked out much better because the, the pace suited me much more as I’m sure you find too.

It’s a, it’s the most beautiful speed at which to travel. I walk a lot these days, which I also like, cause it’s even slower, but there’s something effortlessly enjoyable about cycling unless you’re going [00:08:00] into a headwind, but yeah, I, I at it because. It’s helped me carry what I needed. It sort of limited.

I couldn’t carry too much, but I could carry enough. And, you know, as I’m sure you find as well, when you’re cycling, once you’re packed for three or four days, you, you could also go for three or four years. You don’t really need that much extra stuff. I love that, you know, minimalism of it. Yeah. I think, I think that’s very true.

I think when. When I did it, I didn’t know much about the world similar to you. And my idea was to get out and just sort of experience, and I didn’t really have any expectation. And with that, I sort of was off the road, the main sort of roads that you go on, you know, the main cycle path. And I ended up in the most extraordinary places, but that’s sort of where my love of back country and where I sort of experience sort of the kindness of strangers.

Just in the most extraordinary way, [00:09:00] which I had never really come across before. Was that similar with you? Yeah, it was. And I think for me, you know, the us and north America was purposefully chosen because it was. It was foreign, but it was also familiar. So there was a, a shared language and some shared cultural, I think to be honest, I was, I moved to New York city first and lived there for six months before I started the trip.

And actually it was more foreign than I might have expected. You know, it was quite, quite a lot of cultural differe. And, and even when I set off on my bike trip, I, I remember, I remember. Kind of not trusting anyone for a couple of weeks. And it was only after it was about 10 or 12 days into this trip.

I I’d sort of avoided having any real in depth conversations, you know, up until that point I would just cycle and I’d put up my tent and I’d, you know, [00:10:00] leave early from the forest or wherever. And then I remember some guy driving along beside me for a while and encouraging me to pull into a gas station, which I did.

And he I was kind of worried. He was gonna yell at me for, you know, riding my bike on the hard shoulder or whatever, but he took me inside and he bought me a coffee. And, you know, I told him about his trip and at the end of it, he reached into his wallet and pulled out $20 and, you know, kind of pressed it into my pan and, and told me to go off and have the adventure of a lifetime.

And he said, you know, he had a story about how he was, he was in a, his sixties and he always wanted to go and travel more, but he got tied up in a job and everything else, and he loved seeing someone young liked doing it. And I remember just thinking, you know, what a. What an incredible thing for a stranger to do, and it’s it totally made it made my day and, and actually made my, you know, sort of week and month.

And and it encouraged me to trust people a lot more. And I’m sure you find this too, you know, the, the negative experiences I’ve had [00:11:00] in over a decade of this sort of thing, I can kind of think there’s one hand really you know, which is also related to the fact that I’m male and, you know, White and where I come from and everything else.

It’s, it’s easier for someone like me to travel. But yeah, I mean, I can, I can kind just a couple of negative experiences and I’ve got tens of thousands of positive ones stored away, positive ones stored away and in the recesses my mind. Yeah. It’s, it’s so true. And I didn’t really understand it at the start.

And then yes, you stay, they at a petrol station, they sort of pull you over out what you’re doing. And I remember. They gave me a 20 quit, $20 and said, have a stake on in Nebraska, on us. And I was like, and you know, it just happened all the way through. And so with America, was that sort of the, and Canada and Mexico, that sort of was the grounding to the sort of last decade of these in the [00:12:00] sort of travel that you’ve done.

Yeah, it was, I didn’t have any. Aspirations to, to travel or have adventures beyond that, or at least that I didn’t I hadn’t articulated them. It was only as I, as I made that journey. You know, the, the ironic thing about that journey was that I was, I was on the road for over a year and a half over a year and a half, less than two years.

I can’t remember exactly long by the end of it. The thing that brought it to an end was just that I, I, my, I ran outta money and I had to go home. But. I was actually kind of ready to be done. I, I, I learned that I didn’t really want to travel forever. You know, when I set off, I had this vision that, you know, I could just be this.

Cool Noma guy and a bicycle, and I just go forever and ever. And there’s people like that, that you read about, especially if you’re in the cycle, touring world, there’s one German guy Heines or something like that. I remember his name coming up. He’s been cycle touring for 44 years or whatever. He’s a hero.

And that’s cool, but that wasn’t, that really [00:13:00] wasn’t me. I, I was sort of ready to be home by the end of the it. And when I got home, I figured that I loved being away. I loved. Being someone new and trying to understand that and then trying to, you know, Synthes synthesize those experiences so that I could share them as in my writing or whatever else, but I also really wanted home and I wanted a community and I wanted to.

Have some sort of roots to put down. So the, the bike tour, you know, taught me both of those things that I, I, I wanted to try and find a balance between those two worlds. And it took a few years, honestly, because it’s not, not easy to go off in long expeditions and come back and have any sort of continuity.

But I knew after the bike trip, that was the aspiration. Yeah, I, I think I, I know that you did this desert quarter tour, Val Humphreys, and he always, he had a great thing that he put on this was years ago, I think on this social media, that sort of, he had a email from a guy who said, [00:14:00] You know, I looked at you and I always wanted to go on these long expeditions and, you know, travel the world.

And then, so he gave up everything, you know, he said to his family, he’s going on this big trip. And then after about two weeks of cycling up the Himalayas, he was like, what am I doing? I hate this. This is, this is terrible. And actually he then went, went home and said, actually, I’m pretty content with just having the weekends to have the week, rather than these big expeditions that I see.

Yeah, I think it’s everyone. I mean, we’re all very fortunate to be able to make these choices. Right. And I think adventure is a really wonderful thing. It’s It’s life changing. It’s life enhancing. It’s restorative, it’s all of these things. But and we should, you know, if we’re able to it, I feel it is very beneficial for each of us individually to be more adventurous in our lives.

But that doesn’t mean, in fact, I think it’s only really the minority for whom [00:15:00] it, or there’s any desire to go off for. Months or years on end and, you know, have these long ranging a adventures across continents. I think for most people, it makes much more sense to be adventurous closer to home, which Aster Hamre has been a, a, a really wonderful you know a ambassador for that sort of idea.

Yeah. And so when you came back from that big trip, as you say, you started to put down your roots, that was in the UK. Yeah. At the time and then probably, yeah. Sorry. Yep. Oh yeah. No, it was, it was at the UK first time, but I never, I never really figured out where You know, I, I sort of I think you’re in London now.

I love London. It’s the city I know best in the world. It’s great. But I never quite, I don’t think I’m really a city person. I grew up in the countryside and I, I [00:16:00] like wild more remote places. So I, it, it took me a while to figure out where I wanted to be, which possibly explained I live in, you know, Cristan Northern Iraq.

These.

And as you say, you sort of started to put down your roots there and then your sort of travels took you all over the world from there in terms of your writing and your expeditions. One of them was China on foot. The other one say was the desert quarter of Alistair Humphrey. When you started the, you sort of expeditions, how did they sort of come about When I, well, I mean, organically as well, you know, you’ll know this, anyone else who’s traveled or who’s, you know, put themselves out into the world in an adventurous way, will probably know this that things happen.

You meet people with similar desires and interest [00:17:00] dovetail and so on. So on the bike trip, as I was coming towards the end of it, I was going through Hong Kong and A couple of years prior to that, I’d been at a book launch in London of a guy called Rob Luol. Who’d rid a bicycle from Siberia back to London.

And you know, I went to read his book and seek inspiration from this wonderful master of the craft of riding long distances. And I got to know Rob little bit and he, I think he said, you know, if, if you, if you’re coming through Hong Kong at any point in your upcoming. Give me a shot. So, you know, 16 months later, I, I sent him an email and said, I’m, I’m pretty close.

And so Rob Rob and his partner very kindly hosted me. And I stayed with him for a little while and, you know, we talked about adventures and things we wanted to do. And Rob had this idea to walk across, to to. And, you know, to, to kind of go even slower and really be immersed in the country and [00:18:00] to, to, to walk right through the middle, this kind of cross section of life in China, this was 2011 that we started it.

So it was, it was kind of the point where where people were starting to look at China, wonder. You know, what’s, what is this what’s happening in this, in this vast country, you know, away from Beijing in Shanghai and sh and you know, Guango, what’s happening in the, in the, the sort of P land. Yeah, so we, we, we started to plan the trip together and eventually did it over the course of seven months and 3000 miles of walking and And then when we finished that we had a TV show, Rob was writing a book.

I was kind of getting more into the idea that maybe this could be a career. And, and then Rob introduced me to Al Humphrey, who I’d also known a little bit, but, you know, and then Al had this idea for a desert trip and yeah. And so one thing led to another and, you know, eventually I started coming from my own ideas. [00:19:00]

But I, you know, I think Rob, I’ve got a lot to thank for, for for you know, I think we shared a lot of the same The same motivations, but they were definitely much more experienced than I was. And and they’re, they’re both still very good friends. And I, I kind of learned a lot about, not just about how to survive and you know, the minds of central China and the desert with them.

But, but more about turning this into a career and trying to do something meaningful all with the, the output from doll to. And so, as you say, you sort of moved on to sort of film and writing, but I suppose for the audience listening, you’ve gone from sort of cycling, walking trips. How do you find the difference sort of compared in terms of your experience in these countries?

Between cycling and walking? Yeah. [00:20:00] They’re very different. I mean, I, I, I do think I, I walk more than I cycle. And I think cycling’s more fun, honestly, it’s, it’s simpler. Cycling really is just magic when it, when it goes. Right. But there’s something really powerful, but walking it’s very grounded literally.

I do subscribe to this idea that. That our, the movement of our bodies is connected to the movement of our minds and that we, we, the, the Ru Rebecca Sawant has this wonderful idea that we think and move at three miles an hour. And so the two are very interconnected and I, and I find that when I walk.

And I walk as a, as a method of storytelling. It helps connect me to the places I’m passing through. It helps connect me to people. I meet a lot more. It’s a very humble way to arrive in a place. [00:21:00] You know cycling is two, but there’s, there is something else, like some other slight barrier between you and people.

But if you arrive on foot with the backpack, it’s, it’s very, very simple. And I think it, it encourages those that I meet to speak to me more freely. And it just, you, you see everything when you walk things you don’t want to see, you know, you smell everything, things you don’t wanna smell you, but you’re you just everything is right there.

And so you can’t help, but be part of it. And. My ambition really is to, I, I think, as I said before, when I’m, when I’m doing these journeys, I want to have the experience myself so that I can try and understand it and, and then present it for an audience in a way that they can understand and feel it too.

And, and they like me can learn something important from it. So the more, you know, immersed I can be in that the better. And I think walking does that better. You move, you move slower too. So you see. You see a, a, [00:22:00] you see less than if you’re on a bicycle, you know, a month on a bicycle, you’ll see more than a month walking, but in a month walking you’ll know that 150 miles of area much more intimately than you would on a bike.

Yeah, absolutely. I think in terms of, because you, as you say, describe yourself as a storyteller, I, I always find that when you are walking and you are, as you say, more engaged in the local area, the local landscape, the local it’s. If I find it clears your head a lot more to that sort of thoughts or the story that you are telling in a sense, it’s a more sort of clear, whereas cycling, you are a bit more, not the word, narrow focused.

Because you’re sort of streaming along, you know, maybe a hundred miles a day, but walking, you’re probably going at sort of 20, 20 miles [00:23:00] give or take a day. And so you have that sort of time to reflect. You do, and there’s never any, there’s no free miles when you’re walking with cycling, if you’re going up a hill or you’re riding into a headwind or whatever else, you, you know, you gotta work for it, especially if you’re on a loaded touring PI, but when you get to the top of the hill, you just, you cruise.

And you know, if you’re riding along a A flat area and there’s a ti there’s a, a tailwind or, you know, it’s almost like you’re not having to put in any effort, so you can, your mind can, as you said, you can drift off, you can think about other things you can just sort of, you know, feel the, the breeze in your hair.

But with cycling. Yeah. You don’t get that. You, if you, you walk up a hill, you walk down a hill, you know, you, you walk into the wind, you walk with the wind, but you’re always, it’s always your feet. So your back, so your legs that are doing the work and you always kind of feel the pack slightly biting into your hips, your shoulder, and kind of you know [00:24:00] I think a positive way to look at is it always reminds you, it always keeps you in the moment reminds you that you’re alive.

You’re still moving, but it’s yeah, it means you never fully disconnect from that moment. So you’re always, you always very present.

Yeah. That’s so very true. And as you said, you are out in Iraq at the moment and you are. What I think so interesting about the story now, and what you’re sort of doing is you are showing so many different parts of Iraq that you know, myself and probably a lot of our listeners don’t know about, and you are opening up these sort of trails and these walkways for, to hos in the future and for people and the locals there to sort of experience.

Can you tell the audience sort of about some of that? Yeah, sure. I mean, so the very short version of how [00:25:00] that came to be is that in, in 2015, I did a journey around a different part of the middle east. I walked from Jerusalem. In a, a sort of lap or a, of the holy lands area heading north up through the west bank and then cross into Jordan site length of Jordan into the cide peninsula, and then back up through Southern Israel back to Palestine and Jerusalem.

And I, I wrote a book about that and. To guide me on that walk. I used this, these series of modern day hiking trails that were being developed in the region and those hiking trails were didn’t involve any creation of a trail. It was more a re-imagining of what was already there of these old pilgrimage paths and trail route, and, you know of bettering tracks and so on.

And so I, I observed the work that had been done there over a number of years by the local teams. And I, I [00:26:00] did a lot of research about the process of creating trails throughout that book. And then I I went to Armenia and saw my friend, Tom Allen, who I’d been on expeditions with in the past before.

And he was doing a similar thing in our media of the trans Caucasian trail, which runs across our media in Georgia. So I, I helped a little bit there and sort of developed my own knowledge a bit more. And And I’ve been interested in Iraq for a while. I first came here in 2016 to the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in the north.

And this is where I live now in the city of AR, which is it’s part of Iraq, but it’s also distinct. It’s got its own borders. It’s own government, it’s own military. It’s significantly safer and simple. You can get a visa rival here. You know, there’s been a sort of nascent tourism industry here for a while.

It’s very different from. Federal Iraq from Southern Iraq. But yeah, and I came here and and I immediately, you know, I saw the mountains here and I [00:27:00] saw the, the layers of history and culture and faith, meaning that were in this landscape. I thought of all these other trails that, that were being develop to elsewhere in the region and around the world.

And I’d always, I, I still consider myself first and foremost, a storyteller and a writer. But I was really interested in the power of tourism and adventure to adventure. Tourism is the fastest growing sector of tourism worldwide. I think a lot of people are looking for you know, more meaning to their travels, but also they want something a little bit more bite to it.

And, and it’s not always what hiking trails of fall under the category of soft adventure. So, you know, it’s not, you don’t need any grit skills. You don’t need to be able to climb a rope. You don’t need to be able to, you know, Kayak and white water rapid. You just need to be able to walk, but you you’re out there and you’re, you’re doing something different.

So so from, from 2016 onwards, I, I met a guy called low Mohamed. Who’s a [00:28:00]he’s cured. His ethnicity is Kurdish. He’s from Northern Syria. But he lives in her and he started taking out to the mountains and we started to explore them together. And And I, I had this idea then that it would be amazing to try and create Iraq and, and Kurdistan’s first long distance walking trail and to base on the, the model and some of the success that has been seen in Jordan and, and other places.

And and that, you know, one day maybe people local and international would, would think of. The mountains of Curtis Stan as a place to come and hike in the same way that you think of the other great Tris of the world. So that’s, that’s how it started. And I I’d be happy to tell you more about the, the process that we’ve gone through too, if you like.

Yeah. So how did it start? How, what was the sort of process from sort of starting out, because these are new trails [00:29:00] that you’re opening up. So from sort of day one, where does it sort of start? And. The sort of process. So the, the, the first thing that lo and I did was we, we just, so I started coming here 2016.

We my partner and I moved here in 2019, and that’s when things picked up an American organization called the Abraham path initiative began funding the project then. And so it could become a lot more professionalized and, and strategy could become a bit clearer. But those first years when I was coming back and forth lo and I would just go to places in the mountains and ask people about the trails.

And it started in a time called Amee, which is way up in the Northwest. Of the courage region, very close to the Turkish border. So you know, we’re in the north of Iraq, you’ve got Turkey above us. You’ve got Iran to the east. You’ve got [00:30:00] Syria to the west and then fed Iraq and down to the desert and the, the Persian Gulf to the south.

And it’s very mind Kur is almost entirely mountains. I. Some of which are pretty big, you know, out east by the Iranian border, the tallest mountain that’s fully inside Iraq is UR, which is what 3,600 meters. So, you know, it not insignificant. But anyway, so we, we went to this town called Amad, which.

It was an ancient capital of, of this region when, when everything was ruled in these, in these little Fidos. And it’s a, it’s an incredible time it’s built on the top. It’s built on a sort of plateau on the top of a mountain and, and three sides of it are just sheer rock. So you can see it from great distance.

And there used to be two ancient that went into the city and. There’s one of those still exists and it, it kind of, you know, you can still see it, [00:31:00] they call it the Moel gate. And it’s this small path comes out and it winds down, down in these ancient steps. They’re sort of alcoves etched into the rock beside it.

And then it just disappears off into the valley. And so we and I were there and we were looking at this and and I just thought to ask someone while we were there, where, where did this go? You know what. Historically, what was this? And he said, well, this is the old donkey track to Moel. So, you know, if you wanted to, if you wanted to carry your spices or whatever you were selling you’d go to, or from here and as a sort of protection device, it was the, you had to come up through this switch back.

Staircase into the city. And I realized that this was, you know, this was one of the silk roads. This was one of those ancient trade routes. And and so lo and I walked the first 10, 15 kilometers of it that day, just down into the valley, through these little foothills and. And if we’d kept going for another day and a half, we would’ve got to the [00:32:00] city of Mosel, which, you know, listeners will probably know now for all the wrong reasons because of its more recent association with the, the occupation of ISIS.

But it’s a very ancient, very beautiful, very wonderful city. And so, so we, we took that exp and extrapolated that art and just started visiting places and. You know, in order to create a trail, you’ve just got to walk a lot of trails. So we’d go to all of these different areas in the Kirstan region.

And we’d ask people where, where are their tracks? Where do they go? What were the purpose? Who used to walk them, who still walks them? Some were still in use. Some were falling out of use. Often it was the older people in the it. You knew them. And it’d say this one. Goes to the next village. It goes up over this pass, or it goes through this Gorge.

And we’d hire someone pay them some money to, to guide us for a day. And, and we mapped all of that digitally over the course a couple of years, until at some point we’d walked you know, [00:33:00] 1100, 1200 kilometers of trail. And we had this mid of, of GPX data. All of all these digital tracks of ours, then we looked at and thought.

If you were to choose one line with a start point in a finish point that took you across this region from west east, what would it be? And so we, we picked that out based on the trails we’d walk and picked out that single line started in a time called , which is a, in a Syrian Christian time in the west.

And the end point is the, the kind of best camp of Hagar mountain, highest mountain in the region and in between there’s You know, 225 kilometers of trail and it’s, we’ve chosen it so that it tells a story. Cause I, I, I believe that tri should be experienced like, like, like an narrative, you know, except that you kind of physically walk it.

You physically read it with your feet throughout, other than [00:34:00] any other way. And and along the way you pass through these small. Villages you pass through these small communities. You pass through the, the Syrian areas, the zis who are another faith here. There’s Zoroastrians here. There’s Sufi, mystics.

There’s a town with you know, an old synagogue when there used to be a Jewish population, Iraq you go into the higher are mountains and into these areas with where there are pers efforts still in the Hills. You know, we, but we, we also. The guides, the local guides that we’ve been working with and training, they, some of them are shepherds.

And these trails are their trails, shepherds trails. Some of them are who are the Kurdish military, who also use these mountains as a, as a source of defense in, in battles of the past. So we, we walk with them. So you have kind of have these different layers of experience of past and present. And then we try and imagine what [00:35:00] it’ll look like in future.

We believe that in general, this region is getting safer and hopefully continues to remain secure. And so we think about what might happen. And so there’s along the trail. There’s 35 36 communities that we work with. And this trail really belongs to them because they have to endorse it and support it.

And it’s a wonderful privilege for me to be able to, to walk here and have, and. To have got to know somewhere so far from my own home, so well, but ultimately if it’s going to last and if it’s going to work as a tourism product, it’s got to, it’s gotta be a local team here who will, who will will champion it and maintain it and everything else.

And yeah, so, I mean, I, I really strongly believe that true else. Change lives, you know, it, it seems like it’s very simple. It’s just going for a walk, but creates a whole level of economic economic opportunities for people in these [00:36:00] villages. It also builds a sense of civic pride. It creates an opportunity for environmental protection, for protection of heritage and historical sites.

And it it’s, you know, in a region that has had a history of. Ethnic and religious division. I think it’s a, a way that people can come and be together in a, in a safe, beautiful space. And then for people like you and me, you just like you know, beautiful, interesting places. It’s great. Cuz we have a, a sort of heavily researched, safe way to be somewhere really interesting and someone new.

So that’s. It’s grown quite a lot from , from what I thought it would. It’s, it’s the, the reason I’ve moved here. And my, my partner’s a photographer. She spent now also years on the trail photographing it too. And, you know, it’s low is still one of my closest friends. We were out in the mountains together almost every weekend, whether it’s for the trail project or [00:37:00] just for ourselves.

And yeah, it’s completely changed the course of my life. You know, it’s the aside from the bike trip, which Which taught me about the world. This is the, the second most impactful experience I’ve had. That’s affected almost everything.

It’s just incredible. As you say, opening up these roots, did you have any sort of issues or conflicts when starting out? I mean, was it taken with the locals? I think for a, for a long time. I mean, here, people are incredibly hospitable. It’s most people around the world are hospitable in the middle east.

That’s doubled and here it’s tripled, you know, it’s, it’s such a intrinsic part of people’s personality. It’s a very defining characteristic. And actually it can be, it’s been really challenging for, because people are so hospitable that the idea that at any point in the future, [00:38:00] Someone would have to pay to stay in their home or that they would have to pay to hire them, to walk with them for a day is total asthma.

You know, it can seem to a lot of people in these areas that were working, that, that, that would be abandoning your sense of duty to stranger. So I mean to go back to your question, when we, when we started approaching these. Villages the first couple of times you turn up and walk somewhere. You can tell people whatever you like, but it doesn’t really mean anything cuz it’s the first time they’ve ever seen you.

And you know, you could say we’ve got this idea for a trail and maybe some other people come in future and we want to go from here to here, whatever. And you know, people understand intellectually of course, but it’s just, it’s, it’s so new and foreign and everything else. But third, fourth, fifth, sixth time you turn up in a village.

And you walk the same trail and you, and you kind of explain the project again again, then it starts to settle in and people have been really receptive to the idea. [00:39:00] You know, aside the, the biggest challenge is just getting people to accept money for the work that they will do. And you know, that’s kind of ongoing, but and it’s sort of amusing, but it’s also, it’s how we spent a lot of our time just to trying to, to.

To explain that that’s how this will have to work in future. But we’ve, there are challenges here too. In this region, you actually won’t gloss over them. There, there are, there are a lot of landmines in this area from various conflicts. In the past, we ran Iraq war. Sadam was San when he was in power.

And you in Iraq had a number of campaigns against the Kurds and the north. He mined a lot of the areas in the mountains. Some of them are unmarked. So, you know, local people know where they are, but it’s not like there’s a, a fence or a sign for every single one of these mine fields. So. As you can imagine.

The risk assessment for a trail development project is, is [00:40:00] pretty extensive when that’s the case. There’s also you know, the, the Turkish military, just across the border of an ongoing conflict against a Milant group. And there’s been airstrikes in certain parts of the, the region and all of this is kind of far from where we are and where we’re, we’re having our project and having our walks.

But it’s certainly things that we have to be aware of. Very acutely. And I think in order for anyone to come and walk this trail, the future, they’ve got to feel 100% secure in kind of any question about a landmine or an airstrike, or even like a wild animal. You know, you, that’s just not gonna fly for the vast majority of tourists.

So we’ve somehow got to somehow got to manage those risks really carefully and really well to make sure that this is. Safe and open for everyone. So yeah, you know, direct conflict for us, not so much. [00:41:00] We’ve had the usual sort of adventures you have when you go off into the wilderness for a few days and, you know, have to cross swollen rivers or Often what will happen or not often, but sometimes what will happen is we’ll meet some, someone who’s a little bit elderly in a village.

And they’re the last person who still knows the trail from, you know, village X to village Y. And so we think brilliant, this, this guy can take us and we’ll finally connect up these places and, and he’s always very enthusiastic and, and is on, was always he and we set off, you know, and. With whoever it is.

And they’re normally 78 years old and quite quickly, it becomes apparent that they’re maybe not as fit as they thought they were 20, 30 years ago. And also they can’t quite remember the trail as clearly as they thought they did. and and not insignificant number of times we’ve ended up like that. You know, clinging to the side of a mountain, somewhere in a, in a DPO having to [00:42:00] having to very quickly extract ourselves from it and realizing that we’re probably never gonna find that trail.

So we, we, we do all of that, so that hopefully in the future, people who walk this will have a very pleasant, managed experience, but sky is not always as successful. amazing. And I suppose for people listening when they’re on this trail and for you, you’ve been doing this over the last sort of few years, what’s the sort of what, what’s an amazing moment that you’ve sort of had along the way that sort of took you back.

There’s been there’s been a number of them, but the one that I. Love the most, I think is it was actually in the early days, 2017, early 2018. And we still hadn’t really sky much in the east, which is where the biggest mountains are. And [00:43:00] we we’d been in another area in the middle of the region and decided last minute, you know, late at night to drive out to the east so we could do some more.

Skying the next day and see some of it. And so our friend Miran drove LOE and I, and another friend and, you know, kind of late at night winter, it was really cold. It was minus whatever. And and it got to the point where it was just so cold and so late that we, we thought we have to find somewhere to stay and we just start to scale.

And tomorrow, and we ran called a few friends and eventually there was a village on the way called R and someone he knew, knew someone there. So we. Arrived, you know, midnight or 1:00 AM to this guy’s house. And he, he didn’t ask any questions at all. He just swept us straight inside, had these little oil, gas heaters going Somehow his, you know, with about 30 minutes, notice his wife had prepared this [00:44:00] huge spread of food.

And we ate really well. We warmed up and then we just passed out on the floor in his guest room. We woke up in the morning and his village just. The most pictures place I can ever imagine of this little garden outside and these windows, I could see it as soon as I opened my eyes, you know, lift my head from the pillow.

I could see just these beautiful mountains, slightly dusted, snow, just just beyond his little garden, his little fruit trees. And we had some breakfast and he said, well, you. Let’s go, let’s go walking there. And he was this old guy, this old military guy, very peaceful, very Zen had the most incredible prodigious mustache and and he just took us out and we spent the day just walking around in those mountains on [00:45:00] these few beautiful, old trails that were all, you know, just really hundreds of years of human activity on them.

And then we came back to this house and. And spend another night there. And that guy AF has now become one of the major guides. He’s one of our, you know, close friends. He’s one of the major people involved in the trail. He’s, he’s, we’ve learned so much about this project and the country and life from him.

And it all just came by in that chance in encount, whenever I think of, you know, moments that I hope I’ll always remember waking up that morning in his home after that bitterly cold night and just going off this beautiful walk, that’s one of them. Wow. God, what a story. I, and I suppose your, your hope is for the future, that this becomes a sort of go-to destination for people to go and experience Iraq [00:46:00] and the best of it, right?

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And it’s, it’s always, you know, it’s not gonna be for everyone. Some people will you know, very understandably feel. It’s just not quite for them. The risk level is too high or whatever. But for other people, I think they might be up for it. And as long as we can do our job well and professional me and, and prove beyond reasonable doubt that it’s safe and enjoyable, and that you’ll learn a lot.

Yeah, I hope that people will, will come and it’s for everyone it’s for, for local people. It’s for international people and hope it’ll take a few years, but at some point people will talk about this as one of the, the great, exciting new trails of the world. Well, that, that would be absolutely amazing. It’s been absolutely brilliant.

Sort of listening to your stories. And as I say, we could probably. Delve into about three more stories from your travels and adventures over the past [00:47:00] year, but or past decade. But there’s a part of the show where we ask the same five questions to each guest each week with the first being on your trips and adventures.

What’s the one gadget that you always take with you? Yeah, that’s a, that’s a tricky one. I there’s a, a new gadget that I’ve got recently, which was a really beautiful small pair of field binoculars that my partner bought for me a really, really nice pair, kind of like her pair. And they are just, I mean, it it’s, it’s been so much fun having those around and You know, partly purposeful.

I can sort of scout trails and look at things in the distance, but also just to enjoy it much bird, life, and everything else. So these days I always take those absolutely everywhere prior to that, rather boringly, I always just said that, you know, I’m walking adventures. I always just made sure that my boots and my backpack where [00:48:00] you know, you can kind of get away with, with lower quality or less successful versions of everything else.

But I will spend whatever money it takes in a good pair of boots to make sure I’m happy. But yeah. Boots and binoculars, I suppose, is probably where I’m at these days is very I’m I I’m entering middle-aged fast than I realize. Maybe yeah. I, I think that’s so true going on these sort of trips with bad boots or bad walking shoes, it just makes the whole variance.

Just something else.

Yeah. Miserable. What about your favorite adventure or travel book?

My favorite adventure or travel book I said is a, a really good one. I find it probably very not to go to question. I find it very hard to. Choose one. I, I like a lot, but I’ll tell you, I a [00:49:00] book that I have that had a big impact on me was a book called the marsh Arabs by Wilford Feiger. And I’ve been rereading it a lot.

I read it, you know, at university Wolf teser was a, a great Traveler in the middle east, spent years with the bedwin in, in the deserts and the Arabia peninsula, and, and also spent years in the marches of Southern Iraq. And I was lucky enough to go there in recent years. And I’ve, I’ve actually just written a, a magazine story about finding one of his boatman, his kind of companion in the marshes, a guy called Amara Ben.

Who’ve. For seven years in the 1950s, traveled with feer and we’ve tracked him down to Baghdad where he lives these days and he’s 91 years old. And I, I wrote, you know, the story of his life and his memories of feer and also his own memories of his childhood and that time in Southern Iraq. So I think the marsh Arabs, a.

[00:50:00] Wonderfully written book, it’s sort of problematic in the ways that a lot of books of that era are it’s Teig. It was very unusual man, and he, he writes with this you know, very sort of ATIC orientalist approach to his writing, but he all also on the flip side of that is that he really did immerse himself in.

These places and he really did seem like he was trying to be a part of that lifestyle. He never really felt like he belonged in in Eaton or Oxford and you know, this kind of high side life that he had in England. So there’s something really vulnerable about his writing as well. And so the marsh arts is the short answer.

Amazing. I might have to check that one out. Why are these adventures important to you?

[00:51:00] Oh gosh. I mean, adventures always been important to me for my own. There’s two, two levels to it, but I, one is just my own health and happiness, my own mental and physical health and happiness. I feel much better about. Myself and the world when I’m outdoors and when I’m out meeting people. So I, I do it to keep myself sane, but I think mostly they’re important to me because these days, the, the, I really believe in the purpose of what I’m doing.

So creating a trail or or some of the other shorter journeys and stories I’ve been doing, I, I, I kind of would really. Yeah, I, I would put everything I have behind the fact that they will make a difference. And so that kind of gives me a sense of purpose too. It makes me feel like I’m using my time wisely.

[00:52:00] And the, the older I get and the more I do this, the more I feel a responsibility to, to use my time wisely. Nice. What about your favorite quote?

My favorite quote. That is a good one. I have actually, I have one pinned above my desk a minute, which is it’s it’s not really I’ve got two they’re they’re both about writing. One is by the, the crime writer. Elmore Leonard who said, if it, if it sounds like writing, rewrite it. And I quite often look at that when I’m , when I think something I’ve written great.

But there’s a, I probably can’t remember it exactly, but I, I was recently reading a book, a Jo one of John Steinbeck’s books when he went to Russia with the photographer, Robert CAPA and they, you know, it was, it was [00:53:00] very unusual for. For someone like him to be allowed in and allow access to travel around the country.

And this is in the, in kinda era of cold war. And somewhere new started of the book. He says something like, this is our plan. And this is what we were gonna try and do. And if it worked, it would make a good story. And if it didn’t work, then, you know, whatever happened because of that would also make a good story and I’ve you know, butchered his wonderful pros for that.

But that was, that’s basically the essence of the quote. And I recently did an expedition myself where it felt where I took a lot of inspiration from that. You know, you, you make a plan for goes, well, you get what you want, if it doesn’t go well, well then if you just go with it enough and the idea is good enough, then whatever happens as a result will also work out well.

Yeah, I think there’s quite a few sort of different takes on that. People listening are always keen to travel and go on [00:54:00] these sort of expeditions like yourself. What’s the one thing you would recommend for people wanting to get started?

I guess there’s, there’s two ways to look at it. One that for most people I imagine who will be listening to this we’re we we’re all. Pretty fortunate. You know, we, we have if you’re listening to this, you probably have a certain quality of life, a certain set of opportunities. It might be greater or lesser depending on the individual, but you might, you’re probably able to be able to consider this.

So and just go off and, and do something. You can do something simple. I mean, there’s no point in waiting around forever for the, the dream trip because. It, it rarely happens. You’ll always be more money to save or more research to do or waiting for someone else to be ready to join you or waiting for something. [00:55:00]

So I’m a big fan of just going if, especially if it’s a first adventure. But I also found of starting relatively small, more humble before I did my big bicycle trip. I cycled around to UK with a couple of friends when I was 17 or 16 even And it was very simple, very haphazard, but it was what we could do and it was there and it was, it was wonderful.

But the second thing I would say is that as I’ve got older and I’ve done more of this the only, the thing that has kept me motivated and interested is finding my purpose and, you know, hopefully I’ve articulated over the last hour. So what I feel like that is for me, but I think if, if you find the purpose for your travels, for your ventures, Then it’ll never feel, you know, possibly challenging or difficult to overcome because that will always drive you forward.

It’ll be this motivating factor that will, that will [00:56:00] be with you at all time. So, you know, think about what it is that you do think about what you’re good at, what you’re interested in. And you know, what you can offer. And if you find that then yeah, it’s a, it’s a wonderful, wonderful key to unlock everything else.

Oh, well, that’s really well said. And people listening, you know, how can they follow you and follow your trips and what you’re doing in Iraq? I am on social media with my name, Natalie on Instagram and Twitter, primarily. And my website is Leon MC mccan.com, which has got a mailing list. Yeah.

And everything. I write my magazine stories, my books, my TV stuff. I, I posted all you know self congratulatory posts on social media. No, hopefully not, but yeah, I will share everything on there. So [00:57:00] Instagram is probably the most active of all those. Amazing. Well, Leon, thank you so much for coming on today and telling your story.

Thank you. It’s been a pleasure. I’ve really enjoyed it. Thanks for inviting me. Thank you for listening. You can watch it on YouTube now, and don’t forget to subscribe and review the podcast. If you’re listening on apple, I hope to see you next week for another fascinating tell adventure, but till then have a great day and happy adventures.

Mario Rigby

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Mario Rigby (Eco-Adventurer)

On today’s Podcast, we have Mario Rigby, an Eco-Adventurer. Mario recounts his two-year solo trek walking and kayaking the length of Africa.

In 2018, Mario Rigby completed his two-year trek walking and kayaking the length of Africa—from Cape Town, South Africa to Cairo, Egypt—an adventure that would seem wild and impossible for many. This adventure allowed him to connect with communities and share their message and stories with the world with a mission of bridging the gap between humanity.

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His goal was to inspire people locally and globally to get out, be brave, and see the world. Mario continues his adventures as an eco-explorer, heading to all corners of the globe as sustainably as possible, often just by walking on his own two feet.

Subscribe and Review the Podcast if you have enjoyed it so far. A simple review goes a long way to help the podcast grow and your support means everything.

He advocates for the inclusion of diversity in the outdoors and encourages people to explore the outdoors through sustainable forms of travel. In a world that’s rapidly changing, Mario believes his life lessons are worth sharing and hopes to inspire others to have more courage and address global issues that affect us all.

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Transcript of our Conversation

Mario Rigby

[00:00:00] Mario Rigby: Hello, and welcome to the modern adventurer podcast where explorers and adventurers tell their stories coming up. But what made it really surreal was like, it was just so beautiful. And then you could see like, cars that was just recently blown up and just like smoke coming, like chimneys the chimneys, like smoke chimneys everywhere.

But those were like little villages that were being burned or cars that were being burned or bullet holes everywhere. And it was just like, what is going on? And I remember like all of a sudden, you know, the trucks stops and then we hear like well, first we hear the AK 47 bullets that pop up above the truck stops.

And all of a sudden I’m thinking like, what is going on right now? Like, not just not where I’m, but I signed up for. Thanks so much for having me on the show, John appreciate it. Oh, it’s an absolute pleasure. I’ve been meaning to get you on for so long. And you know, your story is incredible from [00:01:00] sort of how you started and your first big adventure to what you’re doing now for the people at home who don’t know who you are.

I always like to start at the beginning and who you are and sort of how you got started into this sort of world of adventure that you do now. Yeah, appreciate that. So yeah, I mean, I’m an equal Explorer. So what that means to me is essentially I gone expeditions like a classical Explorer, whether it’s you know joining a research team or doing it to advocate for climate change or social injustices.

So I typically go on expeditions that kind of bring light to those kinds of situations. And you know, also trying to promote like a sustainable way of traveling, whether that’s like ecotourism or trying to promote ecotourism or eco adventures [00:02:00] travels. And that’s kind of what my platform is all about and what I’m all about.

My claim to fame really is my walk across Africa, which was a two and a half year voyage from Cape town to Cairo. And it was in, it was done entirely by foot and 550 kilometers was done about, you know, in Malali by kayak. So that’s kind of how everything really started was my track walking along the length of the Africa.

Well, yeah, I mean it’s, it’s an absolutely incredible story that you have to tell and. We’ll sort of jump into that, but probably for people who deny you, your sort of your sort of upbringing was sort of moving around from, you know, Germany, Canada Turks and Caicos. [00:03:00] Is that how you pronounce it, Turks and Caicos, and that did that sort of moving around, discovering different places, different cultures.

Was that sort of how your love of adventure sort of how it sort of came about? I mean, absolutely. I, you know, when I was a kid in Germany, we used to go out on these like nature walks and nature playgrounds. It was very popular. It was my upbringing. So my first language and kind of my first real cultural experiences.

And you know, and Germans do like to, to go in the outdoors quite a lot. And then when we moved to the Turks and Caicos islands, my brother and my mom and my stepfather, we, you know, we, we were kind of we’re a bit different than the rest of the folks on the island, because I didn’t really speak any English.

And I’m just like island that looked like island boy who speaks [00:04:00] German. And so me and my brother, what we would do is we would you know, we would get together and go on these, like these, these massive hikes every single day, like we would go in the Bush and we would just forage and, you know, eat all the, the local fruits.

And we would go fishing. We eat the fresh fish and we would like kind of grill our food right there on the spot. And so the land became our playground. And so, you know, that’s kind of where. My love or my comfort for the outdoors really began. Oh, wow. Yeah. Cause it’s, it’s an incredible sort of story sort of moving around and as you say, that sort of love of different places but what’s sort of your big trip Africa.

How did that sort of come about? Because it’s an enormous undertaking that you took and that was your first big one. You didn’t go start small. You just went really big, straight at [00:05:00] the start. So, I mean, what was the sort of planning and the sort of beginnings of that? So I began planning this about nine months prior to going to Africa.

And you know, when I first started about it, I pretty much had a a kind of crisis in my life where I thought to myself, like, you know, what am I doing with my life? And if I keep going in this direction, I’m going to be trapped here forever. So, you know, I have two places to buy, either continue doing this and be dead inside, or I can decide to choose life.

And you know, by me choosing life, I started to look at my childhood and what really inspired me. And, you know, there was a show that black Panther in which to childhood before you became the king of Wakanda, he decided to go on this walk about which wasn’t shown in the movie. But, you know, there was that TV show back then there was a cartoon TV show that was very unpopular.

[00:06:00] And, you know, it was one of the only black superheroes that existed. So me and my brother would watch this religiously. And there’s this episode in which where to Charla decided to go on this walk about, around Africa to, to learn about the culture, his people and all that kind of stuff. And so, you know, that really inspired me.

That was in the back of my mind. Pretty much, you know, throughout my adult life, but I never saw that as something being viable or real until I went through this crisis where I had to decide two paths in my life and I decided to go in the path of life. That’s amazing. And the sort of before, before that, what were you doing?

So I was a fitness instructor and a personal trainer. I actually have my own studio downtown, Toronto, and I would, I would basically [00:07:00] program these, these really large bootcamps for people as well. So it was like these hardcore kind of bootcamps and training people. And, you know, that came from because of my love for, for track and field.

And I transitioned from track and field and I wanted to stay in fitness. I wanted to stay in something. That kept me fit and I can help other people achieve their fitness goals. And so I decided to go into this into this fitness life that I let. Oh, wow. And so you’re if you decide to Cape town, you been planning this for nine months and you sort of land you’ve got, do you know, did you know how long it was going to take you or was there no sort of time constraint on it?

You wanted to experience every moment and didn’t matter how long it took? Well, so before I went to Cape town I actually [00:08:00] did a couple of practice runs. So I walked from one city to the next and you know, that city was about 75 kilometers apart sorry 35 kilometers apart in Hamilton from Toronto to handle.

And that took me about 14 hours to walk. I had no idea what I was doing. I was wearing converse shoes. It was just really bad. And a couple of months leading up to, to, to the crossing Africa expedition, I was invited by my friend to, you know, while she challenged me, she said, Hey, why don’t you train?

Because she’s a as a speed walking coach and she just like super long endurance speed walks. And she said, listen, why don’t you do a walk with me from Toronto to Montreal, which is, you know, 500 plus kilometers took me 14 days. And I’ll train you [00:09:00] with everything that you need to know. And so we did a lot of over-training in terms of like, you know, walking 50 kilometer, 40 plus kilometers, like we’re talking massive days that took like 20 hours sometimes.

And I needed that in order to, to survive some of the harsher conditions in, in in Eastern Africa. Because you know, you don’t want to be distracted by, by walking when you’re distracted by so many other things. And I remember just a couple of months before Africa, you know, a lot of people started to realize like, now this is becoming real because this guy training for it, he’s advertising for it.

They put me on on the news local news, I was like, all right, no, absolutely must, must, must do this. And my mom bought me a ticket and she said, this is your birthday ticket. So on my 30th birthday, I [00:10:00] flew down to, to a Cape town. And what was the feelings going through your mind when you sort of landed just about to sort of prepare for this huge adventure.

Oh, it was so real. It was really another experience. Like, first of all, I’ve always my entire life. I’ve always wanted to go to Africa experience Africa. And now that I get to do like, you know, just kind of crazy exploration in this, on this continent was I was like, it was beyond my wildest dreams. So I was of course nervous, scared, excited.

I felt all the fields that you could possibly feel. But I remember when I landed and we went to the person who picked me up in Cape town, we drove to you know, like just this, this bar in like the central area. And I remember feeling the sensation of [00:11:00] like, I absolutely belong here. This is everything makes sense.

It’s like, this is what I’m supposed to be. And then from that bar, After being dropped off, you had probably what your backpack and supplies enough money for the two years, or was it sort of enough just to get sort of buying your sort of like by the end sort of scraping, what was the sort of plan in that respect?

Because I sort of heard there, none of which is I think really good thing, especially on like your first one is probably like here. When I, my first big one, it was like, you try and get sponsored. No one’s ever heard of you. No one thinks you can do it. So they all just pulling you off and just say, yeah, maybe when you come back, let’s we’ll hear about it, but other, and you just had no sponsorship for this big, big undertaking.

That’s yeah, that’s absolutely right. I had no sponsorship. In fact, I didn’t [00:12:00] really want sponsorship. I wanted to see if I was able to, to execute this on my own. And, you know, I was able to do that in a way that I was able to tell stories that I know that wouldn’t have been able to tell, had I been sponsored, you know, I didn’t want to just go to like every you know, beautiful hotel that was along the way I wanted to camp out in the wild and I wanted to, to, to have to do it the hard way.

You know, for me, it was kind of like a rites of passage, like, you know, like in the, in the TV show. And, and like, I’m sorry, the TV show black Panther, but it’s also what a lot of you know, tribal African people do as well, which is they go on this rites of passage in order to transition from childhood to adulthood.

And so I wanted to do something similar. But I know that you needed to, to, to, to kind of [00:13:00] suffer in order to see the. Yeah, I think that’s very true. I think you sort of said it so spot on in that respect. And so from Cape town, you’re moving up the east coast, you’re moving into all sorts of desolate places along the way after sort of leaving the major cities, how was the first sort of few weeks starting out for you?

So the second day, you know these kids cause actually came in, they, they stole my wallet and so, you know, that was a, I was a huge bummer because I thought, well, at least it happened earlier than later, but you know, they took enough money where it really put a dent into my into my expedition, but it also transitioned me from going.

You know, [00:14:00] to, you know, like, cause I had enough money say for at least a half of that expedition and then the other half was, you know donated or people helped me or getting like a free accommodation. So a lot of those things kind of like sustain me and you know, the kid stealing my wallet was really a way for me to, to, to, it forced me to to become friendly with people and to like, you know, to introduce myself to random strangers and to people who don’t even speak the language that I speak.

I think at the start that’s very sort of challenging to break out of the mold that you’re comfortable with in other places to sort of almost break free into what you really want. And that is to just be yourself to just be open, to be been rubble in a sense. Yeah. I feel like [00:15:00] you have to throw yourself into these situations.

You know, a lot of people will probably like say, oh, I I’m not ready for this. Or I need to slowly develop some skills. I have to like hype myself. No, you’re just, you’re never going to get it. If you do it this way, you just have to literally throw yourself in, go through a lot of mistakes and through those mistakes is how you learn.

Yeah. It’s so true. And so from there, you’re sort of moving up the east coast, you’ve been robbed on your second day and then you’re probably thinking, oh, is this the start of big things? Or it can only go, it can only get better from here. So how did it sort of go from there? You know what psychologically I told myself that this is beyond just one incident.

If, if me gang Rob right now, it’s going to stop me or slow me down. I believe that there were so many things ahead of [00:16:00] me, that would challenge me so greatly that, you know, for me, I made it become not a big deal at all. I thought to myself, you know what this is going to be a situation that I need to be able to, to deal with, even in the future, because I could get robbed halfway through or near the end of, of, of my expedition.

I can get shot at, I can get arrested. I can, you know, a lot of these different things going on and they have happened. And so I need to prepare my mind if I wasn’t ready at that time on the second day, then there was no way that I would’ve continued going on. You know, moving forward and sort of moving up.

Did you have issue other issues in South Africa? I mean, food. So, you know, there were definitely a food and water shortages. I remember I’m, I’m, I’m quite new to all of this, right? So I’m like [00:17:00] literally learning all of this on the spot. Like, like as I’m walking, I’m like, Aw man, like I’m like Googling and YouTube being literally as I’m walking, how to do certain things how to tie knots, how to, how to make sure that, you know, you, you retain as much water as possible.

You know, and these are the only reason I learned those things on the spot is because I didn’t realize that you have to know certain things before I went on the expedition. Like there’s only so much that people can give you tips on or that you can learn you know, within nine months. And so there are things that happened that I didn’t even know that I needed to do.

Like, you know, how to collect you know how to, how to catch fish, how to collect prawns. You know, screen scraping oyster, you know, all this different kinds of things like that. So like getting shells and digging at the top of [00:18:00] beaches to see if there’s any fresh water, I’m filtering water without a water filter, like all these different things were a challenge that I had to learn on the spot.

And again, South Africa was a really good place to learn this because I I went to the country that was to me the most inviting in terms of, you know, there’s a lot of people who were speaking English is, has like a very Euro Africa vibe. And, you know, for the large part of it is it’s actually quite developed, especially along the coast.

And so for me, I was, I kind of like was able to make a lot of these mistakes. So, you know, I ran into a few snakes, like a puff adder and a black Mamba snake. You know, those things like the black Mamba snake on the side of the road, I thought was a massive car tire, like, you know, from the, from the trucks.

[00:19:00] And you know, I started approached this thing and it was just like this long black slithery thing. And I’m just like, oh, it’s just a part of a tire. And all of a sudden it started like moving towards me and I’m like, what the actual heck is going on. And you know, obviously it didn’t get me because I’d be dead right now, but, you know, I was able to avoid.

Getting bit by or attacked by a black Mamba snake. I stepped on Pathfinders thinks I’ve met elephants and, you know, I’ve met some some people who weren’t very welcoming to me, you know in, in places where I would camp out in the wild. So it was, yeah, it was a really intense experience, but I think the most dangerous parts were really like crossing the dozens and dozens of rivers that I’ve had to cross.

That to me was the most dangerous we’re talking about, like crocodile, you know up the stream and then like [00:20:00] sharks doing figure eights, waiting out, out on the shores for the for the fresh fish to come out. So it was really like a very it was a very surreal and very harsh experience at the beginning, but it really toughened me up for the rest of the day.

For people who aren’t sort of familiar with the drug graphy of the east cased you sort of went SAFT cursed. Was he land, is that right? And then into, and then up that sort of route into Mozambique? Yeah. So I went up I sit along the east. Yeah, I sit along the east coast and basically I tried to stay on the beach on the coastal line as much as possible.

There were parts along the trans guy or the wild coast that it was kind of nearly impossible for me to, to traverse, well, not impossible, but I needed like rope climbing gear and all that kind of stuff, which I didn’t have [00:21:00] or like a mini boat. And from there I crossed over into Mozambique. And what was the, because you’ll have to forgive me, but they, at the moment, I think are in a sort of civil war at the moment.

And so what was the reception you sort of got when you arrived? Because this is going back quite a few years. And I usually, as you say, when you sort of go into these places, there’s a sort of fear and anticipation, but sometimes the locals are usually very sort of open and welcoming to P to sort of people that arrive.

What was the reception that you got and moves on beat? So when I arrived into Mozambique, I, you know, it was, it was incredibly warming. These people were so incredibly hospitable. It was kind of like my first real experience of, of like black Africans [00:22:00] really inviting me into their home. I didn’t really have that much of a reception from black Africans in South Africa.

There was this thing called xenophobia in which where, you know south Africans were, you know, feeling threatened of other African people coming in and taking their jobs and working for a lot of the white south Africans. And because they assist this mistrust between them. Right. And so they seek they seek workers from, from outside of South Africa.

And so I, you know, I I’m one of, I look like I could be one of those people, like maybe I’m Mozambican or, or something like that, but what made Muslim big, really an incredible experience was AAS. First of all, the people were incredibly hospitable friendly. It was one of the first places where I actually got to sleep in.

In communities [00:23:00] and people’s homes that were random strangers that I just met right there on the streets. I never happened in South Africa. And so that was a really incredible experience. And when I made it to my puto, which is the capital of Mozambique they actually did like a full, like a seven minutes series of me in Portuguese, which was really cool.

So the whole country got to see this crazy guy who was walking the length of Africa. And as soon as that came out, you know, I was like really popular on the road. People would like honk their cars, people, literally every five minutes people would stop their car, take a selfie and carry on. There would be people in villages, like literally random villages would come out and say like, good morning, Mr.

Rigby. And I feel like, what the heck is going on right now? Like who would have ever thought that you would just. Wake up in the middle of a [00:24:00] village and they all know you and, you know and also another thing too, is I, and I, I, you know, forgive me for forgetting his name, but the former president of Mozambique, who was the one who, who made most Ambiq independent, apparently me and him looked very similar with my beard out and I had a gap gap tooth.

And so the former president, he looked very similar to me. So people would either stop me because of that. Or they would stop me because I look like their former president. I probably worked quite nicely in your favor. And so sort of going round there, you sort of speak passionately about Mozambique. Is there sort of an amazing moment that you can recall from that sort of time there, like from one of the locals inviting you in a sort of moment that you sort of charity.

You know, there were a lot of those kinds of moments [00:25:00] like that it’s, it’s more about choosing which moment you know, like I could talk about like random village where like those matriarchal community invited me into their homes and you know, like completely random strangers and the compound is like full of women.

And, and they trusted me and they brought me into their home and I was able to pitch my tent on this like, beautiful compound. That’s just like, like, you know, with this beautiful rich Mozambican soil. And I remember we had a a dinner and we, you know, we had this fire circle and the whole family was there and it was just so peaceful.

And you look up into the sky and you just see these, you see the Milky way and like the clearest possible form that you could see. With all, its like insane stars, just like billions of them just shining right down at you. And so you feel [00:26:00] so connected, not just to, you know, our galaxy to the universe, but also to other people who are complete random strangers, but it makes you feel like, you know, we’re not random strangers.

We are all in this together. We’ve just kind of on this planet, separated ourselves and forgotten that we all come from the same family. No, very true. And then as you sort of made your way through man Mason, beak, you had a little incident with a truck, is that right? Yeah. So what ended up happening was I got picked up by Mozambican government soldiers, and they essentially forced me into the back of their military truck because there was.

Zone in which you cannot cross. And so, you know, I need a transport to go from across [00:27:00] this, this conflict zone is just bought a hundred hundred kilometers or so, and you know, this, this convoy what’s going through and they picked me up and we’re moving like really fast on this road, just this beautiful road, Palm trees on the side.

But what makes it surreal is that, you know, it was during sunset or what made it really surreal was like, it was just so beautiful. And then you could see like, cars that was just recently blown up and just like smoke coming, like chimneys chimney, like smoke chimneys everywhere. But those were like little villages that were being burned or cars that were being.

Or bullet holes everywhere. It was just like, what is going on? And I remember like all of a sudden, you know, the trucks stops and then we hear like well, first we hear the AK 47 bullets that pop up above the truck stops. And all of a sudden I’m [00:28:00] thinking like, what is going on right now? Like not, this is not where I’m what I signed up for.

And so what happened was these villages were shooting at us who are, you know they’ve joined forces with Renamo, which is the you know faction of the government. That’s gone basically you know, fighting against the, the, the official government. And so forces were shooting at us because they thought we were all military.

Right. I look kind of like a military and I’m on a military truck, so they’re firing at us. And then they started firing back. And this lasted for about 20. And I ended up recording this entire incident. Well, not the entire incident, but definitely like the first part of it. Yeah, just from my, from my phone.

And I did it in the back of the truck, realized that, okay, they could just RPG this truck because I saw all these other trucks that were blown up. [00:29:00] So he jumped out of the truck and started recording from the tall grass where I hit and started recording this entire incident. Wow. Luckily they didn’t think you’re the ex president.

Well, yeah. Well then maybe I w I w I would have been actually saved because that, that president was actually loved by both sides. I really, he was sort of holding the country together in a sense. Yeah. He was the first one to make a Mozambique independent country. So everywhere you go, there’s like a statue or something of him.

Wow. Amazing. And so from that sort of very. Well mixed, you know, amazing times and sorta quite hairy times, you sort of moved your way up probably then into sort of symbolic way Tanzania, Kenya area. Yeah. So I, I missed Zimbabwe. I was supposed to go into Zimbabwe, but instead I decided to go [00:30:00] towards Malawi and from allowing that’s why I decided to kayak because that lake goes from south to north.

And I thought to myself is a perfect opportunity to you know, to go up this, this lake and really experience proper indigenous and remote places that most people have never been to before or places where people have literally never seen a foreigner before particularly children. And so, yeah, I went through Malawi and then from allowing a crossover into tenancy, And so from L a Malawi, you, as you said, you say to kayak up, that’s quite a long route for anyone listing.

Yeah. It took me two months to kayak. That’s an incredible feat. And how did this sort of canoe sort of come about? Did you just buy one or? [00:31:00] Yeah, so it was funny because I was, I met this Italian guy and he his name is Francesco and he was a, an incredible incredible friend, really good friend.

And you know, we met at a hostel in Mozambique and Maputo, and we met about a couple of weeks afterwards. And another in another town he was already there for two weeks, but it took me two weeks to get there by foot. Right. So by the time I got there, he’s like, oh yeah, like I just remember you’re doing this walking thing.

And so I arrived and we became really close and he suggested, he said, Hey, listen why don’t like you try kayaking and I will walk Malawi. So this guy, so we decided to switch it up. So, you know, instead of me walking [00:32:00] Malawi I decided to kayak Malawi, which is actually already part of the plan. So the original plan for crossing Africa was to, to walk paddle and sail across the continent.

But I ended up just walking in kayak and which is way harder, but because the sailing part, I could have just see all the entire part, right. And so he was walking the length of it and I was kayaking and we, we would cross paths once in a while, but I would always be a few days ahead of him because it was just better in a straight line to go in a single direction when he had to let Chris cross and, and go through over mountains and whatnot.

So there were a lot of times where I was in jams and he was able to help me get out of it. Gosh, that’s incredible. And see, you’re sort of paddling around and then what just sort of campaign on the beach as you sort of go head on up, picking up [00:33:00] supplies along the way, and then, yeah. So I would, yeah, I would do it that way.

So like, there were times where I would buy, like, I would have like 20 bananas with me, like mini bananas, like already, like they’re all like still attached to this, to the stomp or whatever. And. You know, tried foods. There weren’t really that many selections of food through our Malawi and particularly in the places that I went to, just because, you know, poverty is, is a real thing over there.

For some particularly remote areas and you know, the world bank ranked Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. Whether that’s sure or not, it’s definitely evident that, you know, I had, you know, on that, like in Malawi itself, I lost the most amount of weight because I could only eat what the local people eat.

Right. So I was like, there’s no way I’m not driving a truck where I can store a bunch of [00:34:00] stuff and and eat that. But no, I was literally just eating whatever the locals will be eating. And sometimes even like alcohol, almost like my field, because that was all, some of the villages had. So I w I would do that too.

And and then there, I would pitch my, my kayak and so many different places, like little islands Rocky islands beaches, marshlands, which are the most dangerous, because you never know if a crocodile or a hippo is going to come up, come at you. And I’ve had to sleep next to two hippos before. So that was, that was an experience on its own.

Or you might just you know, put your kayak in a place that you know, where people just really, aren’t really nice to, to, to foreigners or strangers or they might worship you, you know, it can go either way. You never know. It’s like [00:35:00] rolling dice. It say it’s that thing. Sometimes people are afraid of what they don’t know.

And so someone rocking up in a kayak never done, but probably very rarely done would be like, what, why is this guy? Yeah. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah, they were, they were question. So superstition is like a real thing. And so they would question like, why, you know, w why are you doing these things? We’ve never seen, you know, someone that looks like you doing these kinds of expeditions before, or they wouldn’t even call it expedition.

We’ve never seen anyone that looks like you doing these kinds of sporting adventurous. Amazing. And so from there, did did your friend carry on with you or at the end of like Malawi, did he call it a day and you carried on then up? [00:36:00] No, he actually we crossed into the border together and as we got closer to the border, we ended up picking up friends along the way.

So we’ve had there were times where we’ve had like three other people join us. So there was at least. Six of us at one point. And it’s funny because, you know, when it up, you know, sometimes reaching places at different times, but then we would stay together for a week. Like for instance, in this, this kind of like backpacker in, in Malawi and you know, he ended up you know, falling for this one girl and she decided to just join him.

So she joined him while he’s joining me on my expedition. And they ended up falling in love and she carried all the way through. So she walked for about a week and a half [00:37:00] across Malawi. And. They, you know, funny enough, they ended up marrying last year, actually. So, you know, it was, it was really a match made in heaven.

Really? Yeah, exactly. It’s like a separate story within the story. It’s it’s pretty incredible. Oh God. That’s, that’s amazing to hear. And and then, yeah, see, you’re sort of moving on from lake Malawi into where are you going from there? You’re going into Tanzania or so, yeah, so I, over into Tanzania, this is where I suffered probably the most amount of pain.

So I’ve already lost a lot of weight. Malawi is really known for malaria and particularly cerebral malaria, and a lot of the people there, particularly the children, they, they suffer from tuberculosis and malaria. [00:38:00] You know, aids infections and stuff like that. And so there’s this really it’s a really a high death rate in amongst the youth in, in rural areas where medical, remote medical units can’t reach home.

However, that’s changing, I think quickly, and there’s a lot more support, but it’s still pretty bad. And so I actually, I contracted malaria cerebral malaria, which is the worst kind that you can get. And it was so bad. And I remember crossing the border. I happened to cross the border the same time that there were these two German girls who I met at the same hospital where Francesco had met his love.

And you know, I, you know, we were hanging out. I wasn’t like, we weren’t, like, we didn’t know each other for too long, but you know, we were happy that [00:39:00] we had crossed the border together and I started to feel a little bit woozy and, you know, there were nurses, so they said like, Hey, listen, I think you have malaria.

We need to take you to the hospital. So they ended up taking me to the hospital, taking care of me. We ended up actually spending over a week together. They made sure that I was okay, making sure that you know, that I wasn’t like passing out and, and getting the proper medical care. They even made sure that they communicated with my mom and everything like that.

So it was, again that’s, that was a really, really scary moment where I thought that my life was like, kind of, it was just like, almost like a flash, like it was just like withering away in the most painful, possible. Good. And so what you rested up just on the outskirts? Well, yeah, just on the edge of Tanzania before sort of, and what say it, must’ve taken you quite a few [00:40:00] weeks to sort of recover from that to sort of persevere on it did actually.

And so in those three weeks I decided to, to, to call it off for a bit just for just for a few weeks. And I ended up going detouring to Zanzibar and Zanzibar is on the coast. So but my walk was actually through the middle of Tanzania. And so I decided to, to go to, to to Zanzibar for a bit, and it was really such a magical experience.

Like Zanzibar is just this beautiful lush island that has so much history with, you know, the Ottoman empire, like Amani people who ruled. And then there’s like the east African slave trade that, that, that happened there too. And there’s a lot, you can see there’s a lot of evidence of trade between India the middle [00:41:00] east, the Chinese, the British, et cetera, et cetera.

So it was really like an incredible cultural experience, but also just a leisure, like just chilling out. And so it’s like a good time for me to chill out from getting shot at from getting arrested and from getting malaria. So I just needed, I needed a break. Yeah. Well, you’re sort of near the equator now.

You’re sort of heading up towards Tanzania and Kenya. Was it quite sort of quick through there? How did you sort of find so Tanzania was actually the quickest most, or actually, sorry. Kenya was the quickest country I crossed. Tanzania was started to get pretty quick too. It’s as soon as I got out of Malawi and further along the road in in Tanzania, it was really, they had a very one simple road that went through 10 [00:42:00] tinea and then that road connected also in Kenya.

And and that’s where I, I think through Kenya was the quickest walk that I’ve done in, I think, any other country, just because like, there was so much infrastructure already there. Like you could go from one guest house to the next, you don’t even have to think about it. Like to me, you know, coming from what I’ve already come from, it was, I was like, oh my God, there’s a guest house.

This is super easy for me now. You know, of course there were parts where like in Marsa bit, which is a desert where it was actually quite difficult to still traverse. And you still needed to, to, to, to do some proper survival things in order to, to, to traverse those parts. And where are you going?

Sort of the Nevada and Akira, or are you going up the coast towards sort of Diani Mombasa? Malindi that sort of route? [00:43:00] No, I went through the middle and so I had to cross I actually had to cross Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya. And as I crossed, my Kenya actually ended up climbing up Mount Kenya.

So that was like a, another really cool experience as well. In fact, Africa is like the first place where I actually learned how to climb mountains. I climbed the first mountain in Malawi, the second mountain. And in Kenya, Oh, wow. And that is, it’s an incredible sort of around that sort of place, like a luckier and a new key.

It’s a sort of just very sort of beautiful scenery and you, must’ve got some incredible sunsets and sunrises as you I mean, I can tell you the best sunsets in the, in, in Eastern Africa for sure. [00:44:00] In Kenya. Well, I would say, yeah, Kenya is really nice. I would say the most beautiful sunsets I seen were in the trans guy close to Mozambique in Malawi and Mozambique probably.

And I think it’s just where Africa is situated in those regions. It’s just like, kind of like, you know, close, like south of the of the. You realize the sunsets are slightly different than what’s in the north of the equator. That’s really interesting. And what must be quite strange is going from Kenya into, I imagine it’s either Somalia or Sudan, South Sudan to sort of complete change of culture scenery more.

It was becoming probably more and more desolate desert area Barron. Is [00:45:00] that how you found it? Yeah. So before I got into a Sudan Ethiopia, right.

And if your appeal was actually incredibly populated, and I think if European was the first place where I had major culture shock it was just so much like, you know, I’m going into restaurants and, you know, I met this group of. These local women and they’re literally feeding me food with their hands and stuffing it in my mouth, you know?

And I’ve been with some I’ve hung out with these rubble, these rebel soldiers, former soldiers who fought the regime. You know, it was just like this regime who fought the government, sorry. And they were you know, camping with me just because they thought it was such a cool story of what I’m doing, that they wanted to [00:46:00] join me for a couple of days.

And so we did, and you know, this, this grown man who has like a gun in one hand, he has a gun. And when. And then the other hand, he’s eating the food and he’s feeding me this food and it’s like, you can’t even make this stuff up, man. This is like, I know with his left hand to that let’s see, he had his left-hand with the guy and then the right hand feeding the I even have a video of him. You know, I can’t wait to put all the footage together and put something out there for everyone to see, but there’s a there’s footage of him actually laughing kind of like a hyena cause he had smoked marijuana for the first time. I dunno where I got the marijuana [00:47:00] phone, but, you know, I gave it, I’m like, why not?

Why not give a rebel soldier with a gun in his hand, in a tent, in the middle of nowhere, some marijuana and see what happens. And yeah, so it ended up being really fun though. I obviously loved it. No. Yeah. And then, yeah, it’s a year you’re now sort of moving up Ethiopia. You are, you’ve had a bit of a shock into that, but did you find self Sudan was a bit more of a culture shock in terms of they is in South Sudan and the Syria law Sherri us.

So it’s actually so Northern Sudan so Southern Sudan, I couldn’t get into it’s just too. It was just too bad. Like it was just bombarded with civil conflict. So I wasn’t really allowed to go into there. I could, but then I wouldn’t be able to get into. The other countries. [00:48:00] So, you know, some of the moves were strategic.

If it was, if I could have it my way, I would have gone through Somalia via Kenya on the coast. So, but I couldn’t go on the coast. So I had to merge inland which then took me to Ethiopia because it’s a, you know, landlocked because it’s like, Eritrea is what takes the coast. So I would’ve gone Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia South Sudan and then Sudan, but I couldn’t have done those those trips.

So I did, if you Oprah straight into Sudan which is Shiria law. Yeah. And you know, it was my first kind of Sharia law experience. In fact, the first day that I, I made it up, I was wearing shorts and I was stopped by some special agent. Who literally made me right on the spot changed my changed my [00:49:00] pants to long fence.

Wow. Yeah. And what was your experience saying to Don like moving up? Well, Sudan shocked me, but in a different way that if you UPIA that, if YOKA shocked me, because it was just so overwhelming, the culture cultural but Sudan was overwhelming in terms of how hospitable, how beautiful the people were. It was probably one of the most inviting places I’ve ever been to in my life.

Everywhere you go, everyone’s trying to like accommodate you, feed you, whatever you need. And it, AI was such a, it was such a crazy, beautiful experience to be there. But I would say those were the small pockets of my experience. The larger pockets were just open desert. Like we’re talking like the white desert and walking from Khartoum to Khartoum [00:50:00] to to up to the white desert was probably one of the loneliest walks as well.

Like there’s a highway, but it’s just surrounding with, with desolate desolate land. And the places that saved me really were just gas stations. Right. So there would be like these kinds of like makeshift gas stations along the way. And they always had food. They always had something. So, and if they weren’t available at the time, then you, you know, they’d be around the next day.

Wow. Yeah. It’s and the space that training that you did in South Africa also replenishing all sorts to stop the sort of dehydration must’ve come in handy by now. Oh, a hundred percent. Yeah. And as you sort of moved up, what was your sort of feelings like? Because you’ve probably been going now for a year and a half [00:51:00] or so about a year and a half.

And see how you are you sort of still with that huge sense after a year and a half with that enthusiasm that you had at the start, or as you come to the end, is it more like, I just need to complete this? I know it felt like I just need to complete this because there was always something incredibly interesting coming ahead.

I mean, if European in itself was insanely interesting. In fact I’m always like, ah, man, I, I want to stay longer, but you know, I have a mission. I felt the same way in Sudan. I felt, I wish I could see more of the pyramids are over 200 pyramids. There are more pyramids there than there are in Egypt. And some of them predate a lot of the pyramids in these.

So I was able to visit archeological sites that were over 3000 years old. I got to see ancient temples and, you [00:52:00] know, places that not a lot of people get to see, or, you know, or a lot of places that people haven’t even heard of that they don’t even know exists. But these are like major ancient societies that have existed.

And we know nothing about them to me that, that, that just like blew my mind. And I could just walk freely in these compounds where there’s like huge marble slabs of statues. And there’s no security, there’s no entrance fees. It’s just this open place. And so I decided I, so I was literally camping along the way in these ancient.

So there was always something interesting to see and to experience, and it was always different. And that’s kind of the beauty about about Africa is that, you know, there are some, you know, homogenous communities of course, but they’re also [00:53:00] slightly different in the sense that like the terrain changes there’s a lot of, you know, I started from this from the most Southern tip of Africa to the, to, to the north and there are varying climate and weather patterns that change.

So at that time, but also the seasons change. So I’m literally walking through seasons and I’m walking up and the temperature is getting hotter and hotter and harder and harder, or it’s changing to something else. I got to the point where the temperature was like 50 degrees, which is mindblowingly hot.

And we’re talking like, you know, like. My, I think I had wet clothes and they dried within like a couple of minutes. That’s all how it was. It was incredible. So yeah. No, it keeps you busy. And I never really felt like I wanted to completely end it until I made it near the end of Egypt. That’s kind of where I started to feel like, okay, I need [00:54:00] to really, I need to finish this now.

And so where did you finish and what was the sort of feelings like as you came to the end? So, ideally I wanted to finish in Alexandria because that’s just on the coast. I wanted to go from water to water, but you know, it was good enough for me to be like South Africa to Egypt. I don’t have to like specifically go to the, to the coast and also, you know, I ended up making it to To, to hire us to, to sorry.

What’s it called? So Cairo where are the pyramids? Yes, in Cairo, but it’s a place within Cairo that the, the, the anyways, [00:55:00] so forgive the name forgetting, but, oh, so I made it to Giza and by the time I made it to Giza, I, you know, I thought to myself, like, this is where the journey ends.

It’s just so spectacular. The fact that, you know, there’s these ancient pyramids that have been around for 4,000 years and they’re just like so dominant. I ended up just booking a hostel there that overlooks the pyramid from a roof deck. And I said to myself, this is the place where I’m going to end my.

There are moments when you’re sort of doing the sort of point to point trips where even just before you find that sort of euphoric place, which just has the fitting and to it. And you had that there. I mean, I imagine it was boiling hot. You’re sort of, as you [00:56:00] say, on this sort of outskirts of Cairo what was the sort of noises and the sort of sounds around you?

It was quite busy. So Cairo is a very aggressively busy city, you know, it can be very overwhelming if you’re not used to that. And I wasn’t really, I’m coming from like really quiet villages, you know, like I’m walking through cause I’m walking along the river now at this point now from Sudan, So starting from the white desert is when I started to follow the river now.

And I made it all the way up until until Giza where it just got really intensely busy. Like, you know, people just like selling your things and, you know, trying to haggle you. And, you know, it’s just, you know, especially old Cairo old Cairo is, is, is incredibly busy. It’s a such an ancient city [00:57:00] that’s built on top of another ancient city.

That’s just like a new cities on top of the old city. It’s, it’s really, it’s really intense to, to, to be there. But me being in in Giza at this hostel or we’re looking at the pyramids was actually one of the more peaceful places that I could’ve gone to. And a 15 end to finish your south to north Africa.

A hundred percent nice. And sort of from that, I mean, you’ve gone on to sort of DDS, incredible, you know, trips from cycling across Canada. And you’ve got more on the horizon as we spoke about before the podcast. And you know, when these happen we’ll show you sure you get you back, but it has been such an incredible story that you’ve just told

The story across Africa.

[00:58:00] So yeah, I mean, I, sometimes I reflect and I look back actually yesterday I think I S I looked at a photo and it was just like a random photo, you know, that came up on my reminders or like a memory thing on Google. And I was thinking like, wow, that, that time I remember the feeling that I had when I was in that place.

And that feeling was just like the overwhelming that euphoric feeling of like, you know, we’re all together in this, on earth. And, and that feeling of that earth is such a, it’s a, it’s a home. Like, it really feels like a home. And when you have that feeling, you don’t want to exploit people or land, or you don’t want to hoard things [00:59:00] for yourself.

You want to share. And this is a feeling and experience that I want everyone to feel. And I think it’s just for the goodness of yourself, because I think you can, you know, feeling gratitude is always a great feeling, but it’s also something that that transmits to, to other people that you’re interacting.

And hopefully that can spread. And I don’t know, I feel like the world could be a great place that way. So very true. So very true. Well, Mario, thank you so much for coming on today. I mean, there’s a part of the share where we ask the same five questions to each guest each week with the first being, what was the one gadget that you always take on these sort of expeditions?

A duct tape, a knife and a rope, [01:00:00] right? Four. Well, the rope what’s that far. So you’d be surprised actually, you know, every time I have to use the rough I’m like, man, I am so happy. I brought, I mean, it could be anything like you could be scaling a cliff for instance, and my backpack would be too low.

So I would just tie a rope and then I would lift the backpack from the top of the hill. I used to rope for tying it around my waist and an inflatable kind of floaty where I put my backpack in. That’s how it crossed rivers. Or we use it for, I would use it for for aligning my clothes for laundry.

I would use it for all different kinds of things, really like, I mean, yeah, yeah. Always bring a rope. Yeah. I mean, I’ve actually, so I brought a rope, especially on my [01:01:00] kayaking trips as well, because then you could, you know, you could carry things then float, ill float behind you. It’s just, there’s so many uses for her duct tape as well for blisters for ceiling torn clothes or, or, you know For sealing the tent that has any rip parts to it.

And then of course the knife is self explanatory. You need that for survival purposes. Yeah. And I, it’s always pretty, pretty important. I always think on these sort of trips. What about your favorite adventure travel book? So, I mean, I was reading the book what’s it called again? Oh, very popular small book.

Everyone read it. The alchemists. It [01:02:00] was a really interesting story because it was kind of like how I was going through this adventure. It was just, you know, it was just a very innocent lead up into the adventure. And then that led to like all these amazing and beautiful experiences that led to to lessons that I’ve learned along.

What would you say a really important, what was the one lesson? Do you feel that you took from that trip that I think humanity is innately. I think we’re all inherently good before. We’re bad. We’re taught to be bad. Yeah. Yeah. I probably agree. I agree with that. Why are these adventures important to you?

I think so they’re important to me because you know, humanity is always needed to explore and either you have it in your blood to explore or you or you [01:03:00] don’t. And you know, in me, like I just ever since I was a kid, as I explained earlier you know, I was just kind of like a wild child going out into the, into the Bush and learning how to survive.

But, you know, we need a new narrative of exploration and we need to put ourselves on the map so that we can show that there is diversity and the exploration world so that we can show that people can look different ways. You know, I’m gone at a time where, you know, the white European goes to Africa and says, and exploits the people in a way that shows that you know, African people are not useful, knowledgeable or have anything to share with us.

I think African people have so much to share and I’ve learned so much about humanity. [01:04:00] And I think that if we come together and we share our knowledge and experiences, the world would be such a we would, we would progress so incredibly. You know, knowledge and wisdom come together. Yeah. I think we have Benedict talent on and, you know, he just sort of, as you say, the move away from the sort of past exploration to the sort of nervous about sort of just learning and understanding rather than exploiting in a sense and say, yeah, that sort of sense, but the sort of sense of you just sort of learn so many different things, as he say, he went out to Papua New Guinea and he was there with this tribe in the middle of the rain forest that no one’s really ever seen.

And with it, he just went there and didn’t go with any sort of expectation or knowledge of them. And [01:05:00] from it, all he wanted to do was just learn. He just wanted to understand, he wasn’t going to say, oh, you shouldn’t do that. You shouldn’t do this. It was just absurd. And then sort of seeing different parts of it.

Yeah. That’s beautiful. And I love to hear those stories and I, and I’m really and I love how the exploration world is changing in, into that mindset now. Like I’m seeing a lot more women explorers as well, and that’s great to see that you know, I’m not saying that they’ve been given opportunities, but they’re taking the opportunities and, and that’s, and that’s a wonderful thing.

Yeah, I agree. What about your favorite quote? Get out, be brave and see the world.

I’m not sure who said that. I’ll be brave and see the world. I [01:06:00] don’t know. I could’ve made it up. I don’t know, but I mean, you can double check it, but I can put your name below it if you like, you could. Yeah. I mean, hold on, let me search it right now. Real quick. Get out, be brave and see the world because I’m one of those people that, like, I always say I always say these kinds of things and you know, people say like, wow, that’s a great quote.

And I forget every single time. Yeah. I know what you mean. You sort of see a quiet forget about it and then you sort of reel it off. Like it was uranium. I don’t think I may. I think I might have just read that somewhere. Well I don’t see it anywhere. Okay. Well, there we go. A brand new quote. Yeah. So yeah, it might be, yeah, it might be, oh wait, I do see it.

However, guess what? It’s a photo of me, someone, someone put a photo of me with literally just that quote. [01:07:00] Yeah. That’s so funny. Well, there you go. You’re right. Personal Kuwait. Yeah. So that is that it’s mine. And if not, then I, I don’t feel bad. Like it’s just whatever it’s, what’s important is that we share that sentiment.

Finally, what are you doing now? Oh, wait. No, that’s not the one I wanted to ask. It was for people listening. What’s the one piece of advice you would give them for, you know, people wanting to do what you have done.

I think, you know, in order to do what you really love to do, you’re going to have to take a leap of faith, you know, and you have to trust in this leap. Hence the faith

and the people around you. Most likely going to be against what [01:08:00] you want to do because they themselves are afraid of jumping into this, this, this frontier that is unknown. It’s not taught to us in school. And so if this is something you want to do, look outside of the parameters of what school education tells you how to learn, tells you what to do, you know, look outside of the general wisdom of your, of your, of your friends and family, and look at the wisdom and knowledge of the people that you really admire.

Look at what they say, and really take their words to heart. Even me saying this right now, it’s, it’s the truth. And that truth is, you know, you have to take a leap of faith. You have to take a risk and that risk.

It’s just something that a lot of people are willing to do. [01:09:00] And that’s why the few people who do do those things that they love to do are rewarded tremendously for it. You know, whether that’s through life experience or wealth, or just basically just the love of doing that. That’s something you can only get.

If you take that big risk, you have to end right there. Sorry. Yeah. And I was going to add to that too. There’s no perfect timing. There’s literally no such thing as perfect timing. If you feel completely under prepared, that’s probably the perfect time. If you feel super scared and you have anxiety, that’s probably the perfect time.

What matters the most is going through. Seeing it to the end trust in the process, that’s it trust the process and Mario, how can people follow [01:10:00] you and your adventures and whatever you’re doing next? Well, I’m quite active on social media. So Instagram, which is at Mario Rippy you can follow me on, on Facebook or on my website, which is WW dot dot com.

And there I have you know, I have basically X, all my expeditions laid out in detail in block form as well. So I’ve also written a lot of blogs and you’ll see a lot of the videos that I’ve uploaded onto YouTube. That’s all on my website. Or you can go on my YouTube, but at the moment, right now, Instagram, YouTube are my two biggest platform.

And I suppose everyone listening is wondering what’s next. Well, what’s next is you know, I, I’m kind of supposed to keep it a secret, [01:11:00] but I can vaguely tell you that there might be a TV show coming up and that’s going to be pretty epic because you know, it’s doing what I really love to do. And it’s again about like, just really highlighting diversity in exploration.

And then there’s going to be some sailing around the world because I have some expeditions coming up in the near future where I want to sail across the Atlantic ocean. And so, you know, I’ll be doing some training this year and an expedition called the leukemia and trail expedition, which is a traverse of the Bahama islands.

You know, retracing, the roots and the history of the leukemia and people which have been wiped. And I’ll be kayaking the entire length of The Bahamas from Theresa Kinko’s to Miami using purely only the kayak. Amazing. Well, I’m sure everyone listening will be [01:12:00] following along and checking out your Instagram and YouTube, seeing those videos that you’ve been talking about on the podcast.

Yeah, I hope so. Thank you so much for showing that no worries where it’s been such a pleasure listening to your stories and I can’t thank you enough for coming on today. Really well. Thank you, John. And thank you all for listening. Well, that is it for today. Thank you so much for listening and I hope you got something out a bit.

If you did hit that like button and subscribe, if you haven’t already, and I will see you in the next video.

Aaron Rolph

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Aaron Rolph (extreme athlete)

On today’s Podcast, we have Aaron Rolph, an Adventurer and Photographer. Aaron recounts his recent solo attempt to ski the Haute route non-stop, which he completed in just 24 hours. 

Anyone unfamiliar with the Haute Route is a 125km high altitude journey that connects the iconic Alpine towns of Chamonix and Zermatt. The route was first pioneered by the English Alpine club as far back as the 1860s and has since become arguably the most prestigious and coveted multi-day ski tour in the world. The route from Chamonix to Zermatt via Verbier is usually skied over a week, covers 125km, and climbs almost 8,000m in ascent.

In doing so, he became the first person in the world to complete the popular Verbier route in a single push, proving that ordinary people can achieve the extraordinary if they just set their mind to it. He recalls what it’s like to ski alone through the night, his experience filming extreme sports documentaries, and country appreciation.

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Transcript of our Conversation

Aaron Rolph

[00:00:00] Aaron Rolph: Well, it’s been absolutely incredible to get you on finally after all these months. And I think what’s so interesting about your story is how, you know, over the past couple of years you set up this amazing company, the British adventure collector. From that you’ve been doing these incredible trips for people who don’t know you, probably the best place to start.

I always like is at the beginning and about how you fell in love with this sort of adventurous life and these adventure. So I was actually pretty fortunate to grow up in the lake district in the Northwest of England. So to be honest, there wasn’t a great deal of other options other than to get into advance.

There’s not a great deal going on in Korea, other than lots of mountains, plenty of lakes. That was really lucky. Cause I was raised in the Hills and sort of running and, and fell walking and, and mountain biking. Yeah. From a young age and then sort of started to gain more independence on my adventures, I suppose, from there my [00:01:00] teen years.

And yeah, it’s just gone. Projects have just got bigger and bigger and you know, looking a bit more international over recent years as well. Yeah. Been funded now. When I end up in Germany, which is a pretty great place to be based for adventure, no shortage of mountains. They’re a little bit bigger than that.

Yeah, well, that was the thing is like you, you used to be based in London and then you set up shop in Chamonix. What was the sort of first advent bencher, like big adventure, which sort of struck a nerve and made you sort of go, right. I want to sort of take this a bit. I mean, I actually came to Chamonix for the OTR back in, I guess, four years ago.

So for those who don’t know, the hope is a. A classic traverse from Chamonix to Zimmer. It’s usually done over six, six days or seven days. It’s 125 kilometers with 8,000 meters of scent. So I [00:02:00] did that in the usual format with some friends, and that was my, kind of my first proper ski tour experience and absolutely fell in love with it.

And I mean, Chamonix obviously is an iconic town with a huge reputation, but it’s just the amount of landscape and terrain here is just infinite. You could probably spend a title. Exploring this region and still not complete it sort of thing. So yeah, I kind of fell in love with it from there. And then I managed to come back out last winter and although ski lifts were of course closed, managed to do a lot of ski touring and got got reasonably fit during that winter with no other choice other than getting the skins on.

It’s it was sort of that trip and the sort of planning that goes into one of these trips. I mean, how does the idea from concept to reality sort of come about with that? It’s a trip I had in mind from the whole of last winter sort of, I guess, a bit of a pipe dream idea. And then as I got fitter throughout the winter, sort of became a little bit more.

[00:03:00] Potentially realistic things to try. So yeah, I record the route a little bit beforehand and checked to see, you know, that I was confident on the region and as built my days to get bigger and bigger, I decided to, to try. And one big push is actually, I’m a British schematic and photographer called Ben Tibbetts who I’d seen, had done the route originally.

And then I decided to have a go the Verbier variant of the route, which is the most popular. Which as far as I need, I wouldn’t have it done in one, one push before in one day. So yeah, it came to spring time and then it was time to give it a go, got my equipment sort of refined over the, over the winter.

And I hadn’t really done a day bigger than 3000 meters of scent. So it was essentially a bit of a bowl and taking, but with enough food and a bit of grit decided just to go for it and I’m not okay. So, yeah, so usually stunned it’s usually done [00:04:00] over seven days, you decided to do it in 20. Yeah, that’s right.

So there’s just some don’t really know what it was about the trip, because I’m not really necessarily don’t do it per se. And I certainly am not a ski Mountaineer in terms of wearing Lycra and skiing on super lightweight ski. So it was a bit of a. At an article project in a sense, but I kind of just got excited about the prospect of just setting off with me or, you know, my own Southern trip with my skis from Chamonix and kind of like the idea that it’s sort of no sleep before I reached Surmac, wherever that was whenever that was going to be.

So actually it ended up taking about 30 hours in the end which was, yeah, it was just a big adventure and the main goal, I guess, to make sure I was safe and I could do it was to get there before the second year. So I set off for the early hours of the morning, 8:00 AM, skip through the day. Yeah, as you said, when via or glacier to tour, went down to Sean [00:05:00] pay and then cycled to Verbier and then from Verbier went to a roller and then over to Zermatt and yet I’ve got there sort of in the afternoon, the following day.

And it was just a big old adventure. I mean, it was painful. It was tough, but actually. It didn’t feel like there was no point with that said I didn’t want to be here. Or was it enjoying it? Which is. Yeah, because that’s the interesting thing is the bit from Chamonix to verbiage, because I was meant to be doing the patrol of the glass here, which is reverse route from just a map to Verbier.

But from verbiage Chamonix, you have to go down the mountain and then back up don’t you, in terms of, and in the spring, there’s no snakes. So you were cycling once you’d got down up the windy roads to Verbier, to. And then what at the sort of Metra and lift at 1500 then skinned up that’s right. Yeah. So I, I [00:06:00] obviously connect

By bike because the snow coverage is rarely given it’s something. Most people just jump on a bus and then grab the left, but I’ve silenced it, human powered. So the cycle actually provides a really nice. Intermission, but from all of this catering it felt quite different, you know, different muscle groups, change of scenery.

Although as you say, it was a big, old grind up to Verbier, it did feel a little different than quite jovial, but then yeah. Back on skis from February Amundsen skinned out through the resort and then down towards well, yeah, between back to Ross and I think we call the Yeah, and it just started getting dark.

The fitness sort of, I think it was a reasonable lane. And with the backdoor, Roscoe leaving OBE and as dark, this palette is pretty epic senior. And just to be scooting along by myself and the sunset we’d had in verbiage. And you remember you, you spent time in Berger, [00:07:00] you always just get the most magic sunsets.

It’s. Yeah, it’s an incredible sort of self-facing resort, which looks way down the valley and yeah, you do get these sort of epic sunsets that’s happened there and even some writers and sort of the, what was the sort of feeling like sort of skinning on your own in the middle of the night from verbiage towards.

I think a special feeling. You know, obviously a lot of people asking you worried or scared, and so it was quite calm. It was quiet and it was, I don’t know, it was a very pure experience. And when you’re by yourself in such a, an extreme environment, everything feels very heightened. The things were extreme.

So small, small things become, they feel like so much more to you. But yeah, I kind of thrive on that independence. There’s no one else that, but yourself to the coffee yourself. [00:08:00] So you just kind of have to take it easy and manage any hesitations or fears you may have. And yeah, the, the scenery was just unreal and, and thankfully it was a good night.

Obviously I didn’t do it in a bad weather day. It was a nice evening and there was potentially going to be some light snow showers and nothing came in. So it was, it was great, but yeah, just, just following the path, making sure I was. With the right way as I get progressively more tired was obviously key, but no, just drive to the situation to go on this.

Were you studying maps beforehand or had you sort of not walk the route, but like studied it quite hard to know where not to go off the path because it’s for people listening it’s it’s back country. So. That it already been sort of skinned out in a sense, not skinned out. That’s probably the wrong word to use, but true.

There was a skin track to follow. Yeah. Yeah, [00:09:00] exactly. So you do, I mean, I had studied the route in quite a lot of detail and I’d actually done cause I’d never previously done the Verbier section. So two weeks prior friend and I went to do a bit of Iraqi and get used to the brief. So over two days we took our time and.

But it’s know in the day. And obviously if you can visualize it in the day, it’s easier to understand and navigate at night when you can see so much less. So yeah, I mean, it’s all glacial terrain, so you certainly don’t want to take too much of a wrong turn. Plenty of grasses. You don’t want to pull into.

Yeah. Especially like for someone who’s, as you say, probably listening would sort of be more sort of fearful towards Avalon chairs because you’re going off piece. But in terms of the route that sort of laid out, would you say that it was relatively safe and well-trodden yeah, I would say that, yeah, there’s there is one deviation I took, which was to kind of cut a section off as.

[00:10:00] Which involves skiing, sort of a 40 degree kind of mini cooler. That was a little bit spicy this place. And it was had some quite big ice chunks on it, sort of avalanche temporary. So that at night it was a little bit more committing the most of the roof, but you wouldn’t have to go on that. So if people are interested in, it’s pretty mellow on the and stuff too extreme it’s just obviously making sure that.

You’re going the right way, the right time. And in terms of avalanche risk, the funny thing about night and that as well, the speed in which you can traverse it’s actually far better at night because of course everything’s everything’s hard. The temperatures are cool. It’s stays. Okay. So actually that I can see further than, you know, 20, 30, 40 meters in front of me.

And the navigation was difficult. The snow safety was actually probably a lot greater. And there’s a, there’s a large section on the verbate rate, which relies on the really good shivers to hold as much height as you can. And that in spring conditions in the afternoon can be really tough because it’s all soft and [00:11:00] you’re pulling in.

You know, most of it was actually at night, I was flying along, you know, Ms. Rock-solid icy snow say actually had benefits. Amazing. And yeah, that’s the thing is, I suppose, being out in this sort of back country or the mountains at night, all Elaine, it’s just, that’s just must your, your senses just must’ve been so heightened and just this most incredible feeling, you know, there was this, your first big trip doing, say in terms of.

UVA, you’re basically your first big, big adventure into more extreme stuff. Yeah, I think that was my first sort of nighttime full nighttime Alpine adventure, I suppose, which is quite a big committing, you know, decision to keep skiing. Or we went through the night no matter [00:12:00] what happens. So yeah, it was, it was pretty intense.

It was a great. But as you say, you just feel everything. You feel that the sound of the snow, the, you know, the, the way that the light, the Moonlight is glancing on, on the crystals of this day, everything just feels heightened. Actually listened to some music sections as well. It just puts you in quite.

Private mind. And then, you know, when the sun started to come up, eventually the other end, you know, is a pretty tough couple of hours between three and five in the morning. And then by the sun does come back. It’s just this whole new lease of life, this whole new energy that, you know, promotes you forward.

And what was the feeling like getting into Zermatt and the sort of feeling of finishing in just over 24 hours, 30 hours. I read that usually takes seven days. It was quite surreal. The feeling, it was almost anti-climatic if I’m honest, it was like, you know, I, I [00:13:00] spent a winter or longer thinking about this thing that I didn’t know it was possible.

And then when I reached out, it was almost like, oh, it’s done. I suppose, to people, people have that feeling sometimes when they do something that they weren’t sure they were going to be able to do. Yeah, it felt quite surreal. And I actually, if I’m completely honest, I think I might have more in the tank.

I wasn’t completely done. Which is interesting. It does open my eyes to the prospects. Can I go further? Can we do something bigger in one big day? That’s always a very dangerous, a dangerous psyche. I, I, when you get that feeling of like, you’ve sort of completed something, which you never thought was possible, and then you’re like, oh, I can demo and then you stray and start pushing it.

And then after that, did you feel that you were sort of hooked on this and wanted to actually explore it further? See how far you could go? Yeah, something that’s been [00:14:00] on my mind, particularly now, this winter being out in Sherman is. Push a little bit more and do a bigger day out to the equipment I used because I kind of wanted to enjoy the skiing.

And the day I actually wore very ordinary clothes. Didn’t really like, I didn’t have skimo skis kind of ordinary touring skis. So I do wonder if I went. Full schema at the cost of my credibility and adventure, I wouldn’t know how far we could get. But there is there’s an ultra Royal traverse at one block, which is essentially a next one to try.

It’s another huge day, just doing the entirety of the massive again. It’s another Ben Tibbetts project. He’s a good inspiration. He lives just down the road, which was always, he spoke. Yeah, I space. It’s probably sort of similar to we had mark Beaumont on, he circled around the world in like [00:15:00] 92,000 and like six or something and he did it in a hundred and fifty, ninety seven days or so.

And he had pioneers and everything and went around the world, had an amazing time. And then afterwards people started breaking that record and then he went back about 15 years later and got it down to under 80 days. You know, when you cut out everything, you cut this, cut that suddenly. And just laser I focused on time just to see how far you could possibly push.

And that’s something probably you yeah, probably wants to sort of explore further with it is actually, how far can you go from Chamonix tos? Yeah. I mean something I’m definitely keen to look at doing an extension route and safety is a bigger day that can be done. There’s something about one giant day that really [00:16:00] appeals.

It’s just this huge adventure where you’re all in. It’s like this hyper-focus nothing else matters for that. And then obviously after the day it’s all done and dusted and continues, whatever your normal life looks like, but there’s something about that sort of, I don’t know, it’s such a grand adventure in the shortest term that the quiet appeals.

So yeah, what’s this space, maybe I’ll see it go further, go faster. And from that, the, you then started doing more and more of the sort of. Much bigger adventures because beforehand you are very much sort of adventuring and the league districts probably more weeks, weekends. And then that was your first big, extreme trip.

In a sense, the first time you really stepped outside your cut, your comfort, same massively and prepared for it. Still had more in the tank. So with that, were you like, okay, what could I do next?

Yeah, certainly. I think it’s sort [00:17:00] of made me reevaluate my perspective of what is attainable in terms of challenges. You know, as you say, when you think something is just out of reach or a real big push and then suddenly it’s within your, your zone and then suddenly you look further. But yeah, I think a key focus for me will be to go on bigger trips in the, in the future.

As I said to enjoy short, sharp, big pushes. This, I think a very different mental game to do longer trips. So this summer I’m undertaking a longer project, which will be a few months long. And obviously keeping that you know, mindset, focus and drive for three months is a very different psyche to require the 24 hours, but both have their challenges, but they’re very different than, yeah.

And because after that, you, you did the 77 or the Alpine seven. Is that right? Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, it was actually before the Albertson. [00:18:00] And was the idea was sort of cycling to each thing and then climbing, or was it just about the climbing this time? It was just about the climbing. We wanted to try and attempt the seven Alpine countries, hight points in one week.

So I guess a similar it’s, you know, high impact. Intense rush around essentially Europe, but obviously we started off in, in just the vignette and trick laugh. And then we went through to Austria, Germany, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, and then a physical trip. Yeah. I mean, it was with a friend. It was, it was quite ad hoc to be, be honest.

It wasn’t entirely well-thought-out, but sometimes the best adventures you know, you just go with the plan and seeing how guys, but unfortunately we didn’t quite get the perfect weather from motorized us at different Spitzer. So we only got to the refuge and had to turn back thereafter, but we did the other five peaks of six countries.

[00:19:00] So yeah, it was a hell of an adventure. It was more about sort of like trying to experience the mole then sort of break any sort of record. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. We wanted it to be like a fast paced high energy trip, but the thing that was ended up being quite refreshing, and it’s just the diversity of landscapes.

You, you know, you see the Alps as a uniform, one thing, but the difference between the GBN ops and Savina. Yeah. And, you know, there’s the outs and Chamonix is huge, but culturally and landscape and people, and just to experience in such a short time, the diversity of, of all of those changing on the way this is really.

Yeah, that was sort of the interesting thing. When we went around, we went from like Switzerland, France, Italy, and then in Slovenia, and as you said, trig lab was like, for us, it was just like the may spectacular mountains, like really dramatic. [00:20:00] Whereas other Alpine, maybe Swiss Alps where I was less dramatic, but like, these were sort of.

I don’t know, two thousand one thousand five hundred, like sheer cliff faces out of nowhere just going down. It, it was completely, it was just like mind-blowing because some, I suppose, as you say, sometimes these ad hoc adventures where you’re not really that prepared or what you’re going to see or what you’re going to do, they make for some of the most memorable and most exciting trips.

Definitely, I think as well as the temptation in the Alps to focus on the larger peaks, which usually are in Switzerland, France, or sometimes let’s say so all the 4,000 is really in those countries. Due to go across to you, as you say, Slovenia, you know, to the junior and Alps or Lichtenstein, for example, I think if it wasn’t for this idea, this reason we had to go to lift at the time, I would never have [00:21:00] gone near these peaks, but they were totally remote, quite wild, actually.

The most challenging of all of them was electives done, which is not the highest, I think it was the lowest impact. But yeah. So just to, to have an angle or a reason to tie this triple in together, It just worked really well to, to experience and explore areas that we might not have gone to otherwise.

I think sometimes with these sort of trips, even if you’re just doing it as a sort of thing, it gives you that opportunity just to explore, as you say, these countries, which you otherwise wouldn’t to sort of try and tie them in, because as you say, you lecture and Stein, which you said you probably would never have gone by tying the sort of seven biggest peaks in the seven Alpine.

Mountains by doing that, you get to visit these places you otherwise wouldn’t.

Yeah, for sure. And I think, I think I, I quite often resist the temptation [00:22:00] to sort of bucket list or to, to box check. But in fact, I think there can be some really positives of it. And so long as you don’t let it completely rule your focus. And so maybe you’re not missing out on adventures. But sometimes yeah.

It takes you to places you wouldn’t otherwise have thought about it. And people are quite, I think people can be quite quick to, to negatively judge on people who are just taking off either a bit Wainwrights or Monroes, or, or whatever. But actually I think having a focus to just keep you going back to these places and exploring can be, can be really positive people.

Yeah. I, I agree with that. I think there’s two different ways. Box ticking in a sense, it gives you opportunities to go to places which you otherwise wouldn’t have ever planned or going. And sometimes when you incorporate them into these adventures, as this, as I just said, it sort of gives you that chance to visit lecture and Stein or Slovenia [00:23:00] because this sort of idea, or this going for the big mountains, you don’t, you otherwise would never really go there.

That wouldn’t be any reason, but these places are almost drama, more dramatic. Well, not more dramatic, but in a sense, they’re more, this there’s so much more to them than meets the eye. I think in your expectations as well, if it’s lower or you don’t know much about a place, you can really be taken back when we don’t, you know, you go there and actually you’re surprised by how amazing the places.

More scenery, even he thought, whatever it could be, your expectations defines how, how you’re going to feel about it. And if you go to these big name, mountains, that everyone knows that bloat, you will have an amazing time for sure. But you’ll be expecting to have an amazing time. So maybe doesn’t have that same impact that some of those lesser than peaks can.

Yeah. It’s the idea of, if you go there with no expectation, you’re never disappointed. [00:24:00] Yeah. My choice thing is quite a good one. From all this you’ve set up the British collect adventure collective for people listening. What’s what’s that about?

Yeah. So we set up the collective basically to promote adventures within the UK program to sort of encourage people. And I guess, you know, inform people that there are some unbelievable wild spaces in the UK that a lot of people don’t know. It was bought on a bike packing trip to the Highlands with a few friends.

We just jumped on the train again, very ad hoc. We were ill-prepared we didn’t know what we were doing. We just had the best time or the best trip. So we, yeah, that was kind of like this awakening almost of how truly spectacular some of the UK can be. And yeah, there was a group of friends who decided to come together to sort of.

Our adventures [00:25:00] and imagery to, to inspire people, to make the most of that. And that’s kind of now evolved to, to being a little bit more international as well. So, you know, we take trips abroad, and also produce media for brands as a, as a business aspect. And we also offer experiences for those ones to try activities and stuff in the lakes.

So, yeah. And see. Amazing. Because yeah, also within it, you’ve got Emily Scott, who we had on the podcast and the very early stages about a year ago. She’s sort of involved in it or she taking a bit more of a backseat now. Yeah, she has. She has she’s so she’s not got too much free time to be doing lots of stuff, but she yeah, she did an amazing Monroe project.

Completely self-propelled. Completely self-supported supported for the three, four months. And yeah, we’ll Emily and I’ve done loads of adventures together and we’ll continue to she’s. Yeah, one of [00:26:00] my best adventure buddies she’s reliable. Yeah. Yeah. She’s she’s, she’s great. We had her on episode nine for anyone who wants to sort of check that out, but going back, I suppose, for you, you’re now based in Chamonix and probably looking at more and more of these adventures, what’s the sort of future hold for the British adventure collective and you’ll see.

Yeah, it’s a funny one. We’ve been going through a discussion of whether the British adventure collective can do. Alpine has ventures, whether it matters, whether it’s the fact that we all Brits or whether the adventures need to be in the UK. But I think where we were quite comfortable with the fact that there’s lots of Alpine adventures and you shall many actually has a very long standing history with British tourism from back in the 1920s, all the way through.

But heavily, the breaths have actually had a strong influence into how Chamonix is formed as a town. So it was quite [00:27:00] still quite you know, relevant to be the person adventure collective, but we’ve got quite a lot of UK adventures. So some big trail runs coming some big trips. And then you, I’ve got this big summer project, which will reveal more policing.

But it’s going to involve basically traveling around lots of more countries, lots more peaks, and using electric vehicle to travel with. So yeah, they’re really exciting. Exciting one. It sounds amazing. And I suppose now I, before the podcast start, we’ll sort of discussing about sort of travel and electric and everything.

And I imagine we have electric vehicles now in a trapping around electric all over Europe. Probably shouldn’t be a problem as it might’ve been five years ago. There’s all sorts of. What’s the word? What is the word clearly forgotten? Infrastructure, [00:28:00] infrastructure. That’s the word get together eventually.

I see there’s all sorts of infrastructure for it, and it actually should be a lot easier. As I said, we were planning on doing that. Well, hopefully it’s still am a project looking at a diesel, and it’s the sort of difference between these old petrol, hydrogen and electric for the sort of future or should be nice.

And hold on, let me just check because we only have an hour on this thing. Slightly getting slightly conscious of time. Where are we? It doesn’t. Where is that? So 32 minutes. Okay. We’ve got it. We’ve got a bit more time. Is there any, that’s a 0.7. Oh, and another [00:29:00] thing with. Another thing, which you did in the last year or so was your big cycle from the silly aisles back down to lands end.

What was the sort of purpose behind undertaking this trip? So it’s actually from it’s from Sydney Isles all the way to the Shetland.

extended. Sorry. I, I, my geography, that’s just fucking ridiculous. Okay. I’ll start that again. I say it’s funny. I didn’t know why, like I was going to go to the silly hours this summer and. Anyway, when I sat down, I was like silly aisles, Lantus. And I was like, no, that doesn’t make sense. And then you’re like, right now, that’s completely wrong.

And I did pass three. [00:30:00] That is true, but that’d be in quite a short trip.

But another one of your big trips was cycling from the silly aisles up to John. A great. And what was the reason for undertaking this trip this last summer? Yeah. So it was sort of born out of a locked down daydream if you like. I’d always wanted to do London, total grades in some form, you know, to, to cycle length of the UK film, suck a bit of a Rite of passage for any British adventure.

But it just felt to me like to rush that journey just seemed like a waste. You know, putting all those miles on the bike and going and fairly direct route, I think would have missed quite a lot of the best bits of the UK. So it sort of extended it a little bit. So we went from Sydney aisles all the way to the Shetlands and then did a re a very indirect route, which ended up being, I think, just shy of 3000 kilometers.

And then, [00:31:00] so it basically came through all the best bits that I felt like I wanted to visit. So sort of up and down the Southwest peninsula went fully into Wales to bracket. But then actually the first time, so after I’d got the go-ahead from freedom has returned and I jumped on the bike and went for it.

I actually had a big bike crash doing an activity and severed my colon which is my first hospital trip to date. Didn’t style. It wasn’t, it wasn’t a great day. So I had to then yeah, call the trip and I had surgery. Basically revisit it the following year to finish the job. And what was some of the moments on that trip having gone back a year later or some of the moments that really stuck out for you?

Yeah. So when we resumed the trip, it was, I don’t know if anyone remembers, but last may we just [00:32:00] had this horrible. It’s freezing cold. It was really uncharacteristically called and it was constant rain for about two weeks. So that was the, that was the start and metric again, which is nice. The first week was just getting hammered with rain.

But that was character building. It’s fine. You do a trip in the UK. You’re going to get rained on those part of it. But then when I actually hit the lake district, it was like that, you know, everything. And got us so grateful having had so much rain for so long, we just got amazing weather from, from then on really the rest of the treble through the lakes up into Scotland was just stand down.

So it was pretty spectacular. And I mean, there was loads of different parts of the trip, which were, you know, enjoyable of course, but they, as soon as they hit the Highlands in the sun, there’s just nowhere else. Like it. It was amazing cycling through some of those sort of quieter roads and some of the gravel.

In the Northwest Highlands with, you know, surrounded by big peaks. We went to up in climb silhouette as well, and how to [00:33:00] sort of camp on the top, you know, and you’re looking out and you can just see countless lakes every direction. And you’re a stones throw from the sea. So it’s pretty spectacular. Oh, wow.

Yeah, I came back. I I do remember the may because Emily, Scott and myself were boarding in April and bizarrely. Like the winter been pretty awful. And for that one week we had like really good weather. We had like six days of sunshine, frost, but sunshine. And then one day of pure rain. And then about a month later, quite a lot of people were like cycling and doing all sorts of stuff.

There’s a couple of adventurers and explorers that were doing stuff around the UK. And I was just watching them on yourself, included just get absolutely hammered by the rain. And like, they were just pictures of people just like on their bikes, just like. This is hell, [00:34:00] this is just miserable. Great to on you eventually you just keep getting that right again there one day or half a day.

Fine. But when it just comes again and again, it’s pretty tangent, but almost got used to it after the week. Actually it just became the new norm. Yeah. I’m sort of being for people listening, like being up in the Highlands. Looking out on a sort of sunset. What, how, how could you describe it to them? The sort of feelings that you get when you just look out over the horizon with all these incredible lakes and that sort of feeling.

So almost the feeling of space, like I’ve rarely experienced, it’s just such an expensive area. And as a photographer, it’s interesting. When you always try and do this places, It’s particularly challenging to shoot it. You, you have this obviously lack of detail if you shoot on a wide angle lens, [00:35:00] because it’s just so big, everything looks too small, but you know, when you’re there, it just feels like it just goes on and on.

And it’s, it was more akin to something you’d witnessed in the fields of Norway or, or what fell. It feels semiotic to cut that it’s a really special feeling, but it’s probably worth, we mentioned that this project was actually. So essentially to showcase the amazing activities you can do within the UK in one big bite packing trip, this is called the great escape.

If anyone’s interested to say it’ll do do it far more justice than my words ever advocate. And where can people watch this? Yeah, it’s on Vimeo on YouTube, Sophie to search for British adventure collective. The great escape will come up. Yeah. I mean, we had a, sort of a feed friends of mine following the film crew and they are unbelievable cinematographers.

So to, to really try and portray how incredible this area was, it was, it was great to not have to be shooting it all myself, but said that focusing on the [00:36:00] activities and the ride and the experience. Wow, incredible. Yeah, I think. Well, we’ll leave a description to your sorry, a link to your website in the description below.

So people can check it out at the British adventure, collective.com. There’s a part of the show where we ask the same five questions to each guest each week. With the first being on your sort of trips and expeditions, what’s the one gadget that you always take with.

Yeah, I actually always use my phone controversial. I know obviously a lot of once you got adventures about disconnecting and I do try and reduce the screen time, but I have to say I used fat map or my phone a lot for any reporting. If you’re in complex terrain is just such a brilliant tool to be able to navigate.

You’ve got loads of overlays, so you can see the gradient. You can see that. No, it’s [00:37:00] just such a, a useful bit of cat that I wouldn’t go anywhere without it. And then I can have maps everywhere. I’m going to carry a physical phone. Do you take a little battery pack as well? Yeah, you’ve got to, and obviously there’s an element of reliance on technology here.

So people would probably be a little bit careful if you’re going into tough conditions. You’re going to get rained on heavy, then make sure your phones well protected and the budget. That’s good. Cause you don’t want to be left for them to otherwise. Yeah. I, I tried using what’s he call it like solar panels to charge my phone sometimes and it’s, they usually only work in like really, really hot conditions.

And then if it’s so hot, then it overheats the thing and the battery. So it’s sort of almost counter productive. Yeah, whether it actually works, but yeah, exactly. [00:38:00] What is your favorite adventure or travel book? Yeah, I think Chris Boddington’s ascent is essentially his biography covering a huge range of his career, which is obviously, you know, massive, extensive, but does.

There’s just a real kind of roll grit to that era of mountaineering. And the, the things that they used to climb, it’s just incredible. I just love how poor their equipment was back then and how bold they were. They were just pushing the boundaries and in a way that I’m not sure modern, many modern athletes do.

And there’s something just really exciting about that era, which I think is hard to be. And he’s, he’s a great writer. Of course. Yeah. Why are these adventures important to you?

That’s a good question. I honestly [00:39:00] always start at nine, which is the worst answer ever. It’s so deep rooted to who I am. I, I don’t know how to live any other way. And then that sounds really cliche, but there’s just something that, that is within me that needs to be on, on an adventure of some cuddles.

And then that doesn’t have to be extreme or does it have to be really physical, the waiting that long, but just something with a sense of unknown and, you know, going somewhere that you haven’t been before that sense of exploration bit local or global it’s just, it’s deep rooted. But yet couldn’t quite define it.

Is there like a little motto that you live by when you’re on these adventures?

Yeah, maybe I’ll get well, multigene one quote that I do. Like she really like have you, I presume you’ve seen 14 peaks. Yes. Yeah. When he [00:40:00] says I’m hesitant to sweat, but he says, when you think of Fox, you’re only 45%, five. I just think it’s brilliant. And it’s saturated. There’s so much more in the tank than I think people realize you’re capable of.

And every time you push that comfort zone, you, your, that. Or you push yourself physically. You just find this more in there so long as you can be well fed and have enough water, then there’s just so much more in the tank than you think you’ve got. Yeah, that’s so true. Great, great documentary. Yeah, it’s, it’s, that’s the one thing as, as we were sort of to leading to earlier, when you think you’re done, you can always just go that little bit further.

Yeah, well, you have to find the treat limit. Exactly. What about your favorite quote?

Sorry, that was, that was [00:41:00] quote, I guess a little more say quite well then people listening probably always keen to sort of travel and go on these sort of big grand adventures like yourself. What’s the one thing that you would recommend to people wanting to get started?

Yeah, I think, I think just, you need to be first of all, willing to push your comfort zones. And obviously that’s relative to your experience. So there is no better way just to take the first step, you know? So, so whatever that may be, maybe it’s just a sleeping outside for one. You know, and you’ll do it wrong.

You’ll, you’ll be cold, but nine, you will have the right kit, you’ll get wet. And that’s just part of the learning experience. I think the key is just to have the boldness to, to take that first step, the big move, because we’ve all started somewhere. You know, I’ve definitely, I cycled across Scotland on that backpacking trip on a full suspension mountain bike with a giant [00:42:00] backpack.

It was a brutal experience, but I learned. And without having the, the boldness, just to try those things, then you’ll, you’ll never take the next step and learn. So yeah, just go for it. Yeah. It’s very true. I had talking of like Chamonix where you are. I once cycled up there. Came through like torrential rain and a thunderstorm, all my stuff got wet.

And then I as campaign just about 10, five miles outside, and all my stuff was saved. The brand being up in the mountains, freezing cold. I had to like put on every layer I had in my back in my bag, which was not very much. And then spend the entire night shivering away. And it is by sort of just doing stuff like that.

You learn. Like that was the last time I ever made. I decided now I won’t put it in like a water bag or anything and do it up. Yeah. Yeah. You only do that once and have a miserable night. E-cigarette [00:43:00] yeah, you learn quite quickly. And finally, what are you doing now and how can people follow your adventures in the future?

Yeah. So I’ve just got a collection of adventures planned for the year. So I’ll be doing lots of stuff in the UK and then also out of Chamonix and lots of ski touring and, and ski mountaineering. And if, yeah, if you want to find, find me, you can either go on Instagram, coasts, British adventure, collective, or Aaron Rolph.

Yeah, it gives a follow up of your fall back. Amazing. Well, Aaron has been such a pleasure listening to your stories and quite excited to find out what adventures are brewing this summer.

Yeah. Thanks so much for having me honest. It gets chatting now. Yeah, I’ll be sharing more about that trip soon. So you would have to wait too long.

Vivian James Rigney

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Vivian James Rigney (coach)

On today’s Podcast, we have Vivian James Rigney a coach and Mountaineer. As a mountaineer, Vivian has successfully climbed the highest peaks on all seven Continents – most recently Asia’s Mount Everest. This had been a particularly challenging, humbling and rewarding journey for Vivian.

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On the podcast today, Vivian shares his story, Everest, his seventh and final peak, almost broke him. There, he and his team confronted wild storms lasting for days, near-vertical walls of ice, and a knife-edge ridge with fatal drops on either side. They endured avalanches, sub-zero temperatures, and tragedy unfolding around them. The roller coaster of pain, self-reflection, questioning, and above all, loneliness left Rigney with ego in tatters. It was then he discovered an awakening of what real purpose and legacy actually is.

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Transcript of our Conversation

Vivian James Rigney

[00:00:00] Vivian James Rigney: We must go. We stay, we die. We must go. And I looked at him and I said, I can’t do it. And he pulled me tighter. I remember seeing this amazing, fantastic weather, beaten Sherpa, face strength, resolute, strengthen his eyes. And he said, follow me. My next guest is a Mountaineer author who has completed the seven.

He has recently come out with a book called naked at the nice edge, his harrowing story about climbing Mount Everest, and today on the podcast. I am delighted to introduce Vivian James Rockne to the podcast. Thank you. Great to be here. Well, it’s an absolute pleasure. I’m delighted to have you on sort of talk about what one, your experience.

You did quite a number of years ago on Everest. And we’ll get into that shortly. But at the beginning of all of these podcasts, I [00:01:00] always like to start at the beginning. And how you sort of got into this sort of adventurous life, how your climbing sort of took off. Yeah. My first memory about getting interested in the world was sitting in front of the TV.

I think about four years of age watching. David Attenborough. I just watching programs about the world and travelling here was this guy who was travelling around the world, you know, sitting with gorillas one minute. And then he was, you know, in Australia the next and the whole world that went around that.

And I remember just being wildly interested in nature animals, just the environment and the outdoors. And that was at a S at a very, very young age. And it just expanded from there at Ireland, originally from Dublin Ireland, as you probably pick up from the accent it’s an island off the west coast of Europe and it is everyone looks kind of dressed of the world.

So everyone was looking to travel with people, the family, all over the world. So there’s this innate [00:02:00] interest in what’s going on elsewhere. And I guess that, that also countries. Nice because your, what is fascinating is you completed the seven summits, which is a very rare thing. I mean, we’ve had a few people on from Julie Stewart to Lucy rivers Buckley on the podcast who have both done it and probably on the podcast, listeners think this is sort of a very normal thing, but.

The preparation, the detail that goes into it and the experience you have to have two completely. This undertaking is absolutely huge. Where did the idea first? So to Kilimanjaro first it was 26 and when I was in Kilimanjaro, I heard people talk about the seven summits and killed majora was just amazing for the first time ever experienced.

Because the majority are climbing it, you know, a massive [00:03:00] volcanoes. So there’s nothing technical about us until you get to 4,000 meters and then you realize, why am I, why is my brain? Why my brain or my brain and my lungs are not connecting my brain. And my body is not connecting. My brain is saying, just walk you’re strong.

And your body’s saying, I can’t walk. I don’t have oxygen. So just going through that whole feeling and hearing by the seven summits in the different continents and this wild adventure that, that existed at. And the next mountain I did, I went to business school. The max amount I did was, was more blocking.

How about the summit of our blank row hugging each other and a set of the guide. Fantastic. Or at the highest mountain in Europe. And this French guy looked around and said to me, I got a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. He’s a character. He said the news, technically it is not. It is in Russia. And I said, what?

So off the top of my dog, after coming up to the Coonawarra and everything, I was thinking a course, correction. This is not the highest near [00:04:00] up. So I came out of the mountain humbled and just started to really do research on the seven summits before then. It was just, you know, I’ll just do one at a time and I didn’t take it that seriously.

And of course, you just start. I was working and I was studying and I was doing that. So I couldn’t do one every year, but I could do one every couple of years. And I started to really focus on it and do one at a time. And so guess what I did Elbrus next in Russia. And then after that, I came to September.

To do Aconcagua. And that was a spectacular failure. So it was three weeks on the mountain. We got up to high camp, we had the summit in sight and there was this massive wind storm. Few of our tents were destroyed. We lost some food and the guide made a decision. We’re going down the mountain and it was incredibly yeah, disappointing three weeks of efforts flying halfway across the world.

And that was a [00:05:00] massive learning. And it was, there was a, a humidity that went with that. Also things you can control and things you can’t control. And thereafter, I went to Carson’s pyramid in Indonesia. That was about rock climbing. That was very difficult to get to. We were very lucky to get up. It’s hard to get to that mountain because he ASCO was the typical seven summit people do.

But, but you know, that’s only 2,600 meters. Carson’s pyramid is 5,000 meters and that’s serious stuff. So, and then I ended up going to Antarctica, which was a mesmerizing spectacular, changed my life, going down there. And then after we went to Denali and North America, which was very cold, very technical, all of a sudden, many areas.

Whether it was bad. We were there three weeks, three and a half weeks, almost four weeks. And that, I always said I’d never do stuff. I’d never do libraries. That was for the big boys that was for serious. But like an itch, you can’t scratch. And you know, people start saying to you, you [00:06:00] know, when you’re doing Everest and Irish people say, well done, congratulations.

I heard you’re dead after a few pints. And you know, you’re just going to look, is it me or the mountain? And the question was, it’s probably me. I’ve done some mountains. I’ve, you know, I’ve learned a ton. And then I met somebody on a mountain who was organizing the exhibition to Everest, and I asked him, you know, a thousand questions and every answer was.

It was a humble answer. It was raw answers, real answer. There was no messing around and I absorbed and I felt excitement coming within me with each answer I heard and it was going to be a small team is going to be a dynamic team, small team hand shows and. And I’m not people with big egos, people who were put the effort in who were humble, but who were very focused and who weren’t too fond of themselves.

And it felt the values associated with putting that team together, [00:07:00] felt like a good fit for me. And I signed up and that was 18 months before I did it. I didn’t look at a video forever. I didn’t want to read naked. I didn’t want to read into thin air. I didn’t want to know anything about it because I had a huge fear of Heights.

And that had always been the case. And I think we’re born with that. I think it’s, we can, we can, you know, tape it down and kind of getting over it on the mountain. But it comes back and so yeah, so that was it. That was 18 months. And then then I, I arrived in the pal and that was, that was the beginning.

I thought, I think everyone has an innate fear or. Being scared of Heights, the idea of, you know, looking down, I didn’t know anyone we had Tim Howe on last time and or the last episode and here he’s a base jumper and the idea is sort of so unnatural to look over a cliff and just [00:08:00] throw yourself off or even look down.

And I think for a lot of people, it’s exactly the same was the idea within Everest. Because you had done seven summits, so surely in your mind it was sort of. Wasn’t it after sort of concrete seven, you must have seen Everest and being like this is the four or six, six heiress was the last one. I guess Everest has a reputation of just being extreme.

And obviously the death rate is, is way higher than any of the others. And I was always aware of I’m two months away. And I guess my own insecurities was, I was a strong enough, you know, how would I, how would I cope under that pressure? All, all of those things and the Heights, they, I mean the ladders, you look at those, some of those early many ladders go across Calabasas, crevasses.

I mean, it’s obvious stuff. And and every year it’s different. And you know, it’s this living glacier and there a combo with the Khumbu valley, it’s, it’s [00:09:00] spectacular. So that was definitely in my mind. And until I met this person and he, he answered all my questions and I, it wasn’t an aha moment. And I said, it’s me.

It’s not the mountain. And And then I arrived in Nepal. It’s funny thing. I ended up reading into thin air the week before I submit it. I thought it was wise to read it in case there was any learning I could pick off along the way of things not to do during our summers ascent. So finally, I read the book because it was on the table and the, in the, in the main tent.

So it was too late at that point. Of course, there was no going back. I was in. And in. And what you sort of talk about is the idea, do you feel like a lot of times when people go, was there a lot of, you’re talking about picking your team and moving away from the sort of big egos that were sort of, you know, would do it for themselves?

Where was that very important? Did you get [00:10:00] sort of the idea or not the idea, but the sort of concept of picking your own team in order to make sure that your success rate was high and that everyone was going to look out for each. Yeah, good question. I pick the company that was going to climb with. It was a company who had climbed with, I’d been with them and Denali.

I’d been with them and Carson’s pyramid. I’ve been with them in Antarctica. I knew the owner of COF a co-founder of the company, and I knew his value system really charity. And when I stopped, when I sat with this, this, this guy. Who he was hiring to run the ex the Everest expedition asked all these questions.

I knew the founder had told me, this is the type of team we will. We will bring on board. You know, we, we do not choose people with big egos. We choose people who are going to be safe. People are going to work well together. People who we’re going to work well together as guides, and it’s going to be small and it’s going to be.

And we expect high standards and we will ensure this level of people [00:11:00] coming on board. So we just felt they were doing all that homework for me. When I got to Katmandu, I hadn’t met many of them people before. Two of them I did but the other five, I didn’t. So that was it was a bit of a leap of faith, but again, his value system and the experience that I had before were really clear, and we were a small expedition.

There were other expeditions where maybe 10, 20, 30 people. More like a machine and, you know, great logistics, great coordination, all that, but you can just imagine you’re part of something bigger and there’s just inherently more, more, you know, more risk of people having different values and different ways of looking at what this represents and, and you get under a pressure zone, stressful circumstances.

Those things tend to come out. So I was very happy to be able to small, tighter, tighter team. And they will all very experienced climbers. All, I think there were three, three out of the group, in addition to me where this was her seventh summit. [00:12:00] So you can see that they were, and then yeah, the rest were again, had done different lines around the world.

So all international, mostly American and American, Irish, Polish. Yeah. That was it. What do you think attracts people to. What do you think really sort of gets them going back again and again, I guess it was partly the reason, the only reason my own reason for doing the seven summits. I mean, on the one hand it was seeing the world and that’s a very it’s a very comfortable answer.

Isn’t it? You go around and see the world and see beautiful places, but there’s also an ambition in there to achieve and to prove oneself. And some people go to the extent of talking about conquering, Everest switches. Pretty funny. When you think about conquer, have you conquered anything, conquering yourself as a big enough average?

I think in life, but so this, so I think that ambition was something which is driving me under the [00:13:00] surface. And I think that impacted me on the mountain insignificant ways. So it’s covered in the book in terms of my personal journey. Which was quite profound. And I came, I went up the mountain one, man, and I came down the mountain, a very different person.

So Everest was not just a combination of the seventh of the seven summits. It was almost like a, not be cliche about it, but kind of a rebirth of me an RN. And we say copping onto yourself. And just being crystal clear about who I was and who I wasn’t and having those things being in, in, in balance probably for the first time in my life.

That was, that was the big takeaway. So it was not like an epiphany or whatnot. It was when you say you came down well, who was the person that went up and he was the person that came [00:14:00] down? Yeah. So the person who went up was somebody who was super fit, very focused trained, well conscientious And I was fit on a new, I was fit and had a good head and I could just get my head down and work it.

And on every day, you know, you know, whenever there’s three rotations rotation, one is from bay. First of all, you got to get from the, from the airport to base campus. About 10 days to climatize, they didn’t go from base camp up to camp, one to come to then all the way back to base camp for a contestation and moving supplies.

Then you go all the way camp one, come to come through. All the way back down to base camp then, but down the valley to recoup and re rebuild your energy cause your, your muscle mass masses disappeared at that point. That’s about five or six weeks in. And then the third rotation is a find a one come back to base camp.

Everyone opens their laptops. They were looking at satellite weather cause you know, whatever, it’s just probably a seven [00:15:00] day window of summiting. The, you know, it’s really short and everyone was trying to judge us. And then off, we go up to the summit, the summit, our summit bid, as it were, and that’s about six days up and down.

And I’d be doing really well on the rotation. Rotational on rotation too. I was, I was quick, I was fit. I was in good shape. And then the third rotation I did well up to come three, come four. There was having problems with oxygen. I wasn’t sleeping that much on a, started to deteriorate. But the head was strong.

The body was weak. The head was strong, but nobody else was feeling great as well. So it wasn’t as if I was the only one feeling tired or but at some point on the mountain, we come up to the south summit. So you’re climbing, climbing up through the balcony all through higher and higher and higher go to the south summit.

And in front of you does this Vista of a Hillary step. [00:16:00] And as it is. Profound fear when you look at that thing, because it is like climbing a wall and you see these people like ants climbing up and before you get to Hilary step, there is a 50 meter knife edge. 2000 meters into Tibet and about 1800 meters down to come to where I came from.

So either way it’s expressed through, down to, you know, your afterlife. So you have to, you look across this and I got to this point and the moment I saw this Vista I just, I just went into not panic, but I just looked and I said I’m feeling bad. I’m not feeling good. I looked over our head guide was leaning against a rock and he was vomiting.

He started he’d submitted four times before and he said, I feel terrible. I don’t think I can do it this year. I looked over other guide and he was, his mouth was wide open. He was white. He was [00:17:00] checking on me, Vivian, are you okay? And his eyes were popping out of his head and I just looked and I just, the whole I felt incredibly exposed.

And we weren’t even through the knife edge, not Petteri step. We were at that last point. And I went to a very dark place and I just felt I’ve no energy, my oxygen, I, I, I was started to breathe, but there was no oxygen in my lungs. And I thought came into my mind of I’m going to be stuck here.

And this is where I’ll, this is where I’ll arrest. And we were kind of dark places. So I remember this dark cloud coming over my head of metaphorically and this voice inside me. And I was, I was emotional because I felt, I felt as if this is it. This is not a way I want to go. And I close my eyes.

I remember my tears were frozen [00:18:00] immediately because it was incredibly cold. And then I remember hearing this voice inside my mind and the voice basically said, why are you here? Why are you here? And it kept coming. I’d never heard this voice before deep inside me. And I didn’t have an answer. I don’t know why I’m here on the next thing the voice said was why are you always trying to prove how good you are, has smart.

You are talented. You are how hard you work. I didn’t have an answer to those questions. So here I am, you know, almost the top of Everest having this discussion myself. It’s not what you imagine you’re going to be doing on Everest. On top of that, you’re feeding that I’m going to lean against this rock and it’ll be here for the next hundred years and people will be tapping my helmet as they pass me for future expeditions.

And it was just a. Basically just wanted to [00:19:00] get away from this place. So I closed my eyes were closed and I just started to think of something else. And I started to, I had a thought in my mind, the moment I had that thought in my mind, everything went away. The volume went down and I started to breathe again.

And then I got a tap on my shoulder from the sharp, my sharper, and I opened my eyes and I had to rub them. Cause they were all from. And he pulled my face next to his and he said, we must go. We stay, we die. We must go. And I looked at him and I said, I can’t do it. And he pulled me tighter. I remember seeing this amazing, fantastic weather, beaten Sherpa, face strength, resolute, strengthen his eyes.

And he said, follow.

And I surrendered [00:20:00] and I followed him and he, he was taking one step at a time. He said, follow one step. And I followed one step one, step one step. I came to halfway up that every step I have no recollection of the knife edge, no recollection of getting onto Hillary step. And I remember coming to, because his boots, he has crampons or sliding down the road.

And I was trying to put my boot just exactly. I was so focused on, on where his boots were. Nothing else mattered. I came to I’m thinking Christ he’s taken me up. I thought he was going to take me down. And at that point I’m halfway up the step and I just kept focusing on his boots. His boots got up to the top, swung around a rock where there’s basically a whole view of air.

And got to the summit slowly, got to the summit and people were excited. The summit on Augusta summit. I said, why am I here [00:21:00] now? It did say, it’s a nice view. I’m at a top of the world is not nice. There is nothing on above me. Why am I here? And that was my summit experience. And I came down the mountain and that processed all the way down and had some interesting experiences down the mountain as well.

But yeah, that’s a long answer to your question. What happened with the summit and that experience, but it was extremely personal. And the ego basically was of no use to me. The ego was the heaviest rock in my backpack. And until I let go of that ego I couldn’t move. And that was that release that vulnerability, which I never felt in my entire being Yeah, it was a powerful experience.

[00:22:00] I still powerful, just even talking about it today and that’s hard to believe many moons later. I think we’ve, we’ve discussed at length on this podcast about how, I mean, it’s that old cliche. It’s the journey, not the destination. And as you say, most times when people. Get to where they’re visualized, whether it’s, you know, finishing a massive race across the world, or whether it’s summiting Everest, when they get it’s.

Usually it’s been the whole journey, you know, years of preparation and everything put into it. And it’s somewhat of mostly an anticlimax. You know, and, you know, we’ve had people on left right. And center on this podcast and they all talk the same about the finishing line was just this feeling of not emptiness, but of something they want [00:23:00] imagining, which is sort of what you had.

Yeah. It’s a connection with yourself. An older projection of I’m really fit and really competitive. It’s going to be a great feeling. And I grew the flag and it’s all nonsense. It’s a connection with yourself and that compassion for yourself and the humidity in your naked as it were. And it’s so unusual.

And it’s so pure and so honest that you just want to bottle it up and hold. Yeah, it’s profound. I think people who go through, you know, near-death experiences, whether it be a car accident or something dramatic, you’ll hear similar stories of time slows down and they go inside and they go to a place and it’s yeah, it’s fascinating.

It’s a reset. The idea is to kind of hang on to [00:24:00] it though, right. Because the busy-ness is waiting. The question is, how do you hang on to that? If that’s the truth? You know, we’d rather have truth. Thank you very much as opposed to distraction and everything else. So none of the sweet spot is to, is to hold on to that and nurture it.

Cause it needs nurturing. Nobody comes down and they’re like just, you know, levitating, happy on air. And you know, everything is all bells and sandals. That’s real world doesn’t work like that. So you have to work at it, but climbing a mountain, you have to come down the mountain, you have to work at coming down and.

At a work and incorporating that into oneself, to work at being compassionate with yourself, and then being able to be compassionate with others. There’s no free pass on that, but if you feel it than it exists, if it exists, it’s you, if it’s you. That’s the truth and that’s you own the deeds of that.

Nobody else owns those deeds. We tend to forget about this and society [00:25:00] right now with so much distraction and social media, and there’s all this, that, and the other and all these experiences. But are we really connecting with ourselves? Are we listening to ourselves? Maybe it’s not as easy as you know, take, talk about make, make a belief fun experiences, but you know, with depth, is there depth, did you find coming down the mountain, both physically and let’s say mentally with yourself as challenging as going through.

In a sense, you were at the top and you had these tools and you know, most people think when you’re at the top, you are there going well, I’m on top of the world that wasn’t for you. And then when you were coming down, the mountain was, did realization of what you had done and what your thoughts were and like processing those thoughts [00:26:00] coming down the summit.

Was it and putting them all together. Was that just as a challenge is getting to the top and realizing, yeah. Good question. Good question. Couple of things I’ll share when I, so we, we recently. And then we came down to the south Cole, just count four, which is high camp. At that point, after being at the summit, you basically have been, we’ve been climbing for 20 hours nonstop.

So you see south call us literally like, you know, church and Katie cost. It is, it is, you know, you visualizing Palm trees. Cause it just feels safe. Compared to what we’ve, what we’ve been through. And then we come spend one night there and then we come all the way down to come to. And then finally back to camp one after another night there.

So I was processing, I’ve got to south call. I slept five hours solid, no dreaming. My brain was so empty and I think my [00:27:00] unconscious mind was just, it had been exposed. But I slept the best five hours of sleep I’d had in two months. So that was, that was a win that I got come to and I want to call my family and, you know, I, I grew up my father, you know, father was a climber Mountaineer you know, in the Alps and then Kilimanjaro, Montblanc and so forth.

So I guess it was something in the family. And it wouldn’t wouldn’t get us too many compliments, but he telling his story teller. He tell our friends who was very proud of us. Good. He always expected a high bar from us and it was always about, you know, you gotta be, you gotta work hard and you gotta prove yourself and all that good stuff.

So I called my folks. I knew they were worrying about me satellite. You know, the Irish ring, it’s a bit like the Irish used to be part of the UK. So we have the kind of the ring ring that very distinct ringing tone. And I’m [00:28:00] there, there’s a full moon. It’s freezing cold and I’m on the satellite phone.

And then I heard this voice and yeah, his voice and it was hello. I felt the warmth on the dad’s voice. And I cried and I cried. I just, it poured out to me for one minute. I don’t think I’d ever done that in my life. And after one minute it stopped like a thunderstorm, but not one minute. What I felt was a connection with my family.

With, you know, you know, the sacrifices my parents had made the fact that, you know, dad was tough on me, but, but, but, but wanted the best for me. And I felt that, and it was incredibly powerful. And then after one minute I call my wrists. [00:29:00] And I, we had a conversation and I said, how are you? And he told me, and he told me he was very.

And it was it was a big deal. And again, it was interesting. It was not at the top. It was about me and accepting myself and, and quite a heck of my having to prove, to prove, to prove. And I speak to my dad, you know, kind of halfway down and it’s about realizing what family is and what matters and what was always there.

But sometimes we just focus on the tough stuff or we focus on, you know, this sudden the other, but the core was there and the warmth and the love was there. The one word I felt when I spoke to him was love and there was a powerful word and And I go through the Khumbu Icefall and then I got to the bottom and I’ll tell you one more funny story.

Cause Irish people always tell you stories. I spoke to a family member and they said, oh, I spoke to [00:30:00] dad. And you know, he told me and I told my dad, it was really difficult. And I think to them, they got makers, you know, in that. And they said to me, listen, I heard from daddy, you said you almost didn’t make it.

You don’t need to worry about that. He got to the highest point on earth. That’s all you need to worry about. Don’t you worry, you just tell people you’ve got to. And I felt immediate anger about that. I felt anger. I felt frustration and I shopped back and I said, That’s so wrong. What you’re saying to me, what I went through and the toil and the questioning.

That is the story. That is the story of Everest. And I’m going to tell it to everyone that listens and the person that the person that you. It’s a different person. That is the story. And it was funny. It wasn’t, it, it was that for me, it was like the third piece that, that [00:31:00] completed things. And that was the piece that, that really resonated.

So that kind of put a full stop on. And it came to Mount congener mountain ban and that process for years, I kind of thought that, that, you know, that idea of, of what is vulnerability and what is being free of our egos and our personas and all of that. It’s a, it’s a massive release. Yeah, me down. It was just as hard as going up.

That’s the net of all of that. I think that’s so true. I, I, you know, before the pandemic was trapping all over the place and actually the one thing the pandemic has probably given me is that sense of just how important family is. You sort of run a, you know, you, I was traveling all over the world and actually when I got back.

I, I, there wasn’t any part of me that felt, you know, oh, I need to get out. I need [00:32:00] to go. It was actually just how important family is in, I don’t know, in life. And just that sort of circle around you. And also it’s sort of just not make, say I think it’s also, but you need to sort of find that before you can actually really appreciate it.

In a sense. Yeah. And of course, you know, in the world we have things can happen quickly and then somebody, somebody passes and then you don’t get a chance to have that moment. Right. Which is sometimes we don’t get to control those things. Right. But that healing of yourself is the minimum we must do right.

To here with others. It’s ideal. But at least to heal with yourself, that’s that’s powerful. No. I agree. And then, so after you had sort of, you know, come back down from Everest, [00:33:00] probably breathing a little bit better, right? Yeah. What was, and you sort of talked about legacy and this sort of importance of it.

What would you say that the legacy that you took from Everest back to. New York or to now Dublin, where you were living the idea of conquering as you put it, there’s an angle that I’ll tell you a story as part of that answer. So got back to Katmandu, doing a nice dinner. And I had a flight four days out and I said, I am not going to change my flight and go back to New York.

I’m going to take a little bit of me time. I’ve been with the same people for all those day weeks. It was time. I just wanted to literally go to a place, you know, be a hermit for a while. So I found this whole country club in Catlin, do the places kind of run down, but [00:34:00] it was like, I just wanted a hotel beside the jungle.

I hadn’t seen colors for two months. Think about that. I’d seen rock. And sky, that