South America

I’m recently back from an epic 10 week trip in South America.  A journey through Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Brazil doing the first 3000miles on my BMW F800 GS Adventure!

I was with a crew and together we were filming for an adventure travel series.. details to follow!

Our schedule was very full.  It was such a busy time.  So many places, people and experiences.

We kicked things off with long days and late nights in Buenos Aires – that city really does not sleep – and it was a mistake when I thought that things would calm down after that.

On day seven a World First and a World Record were attempted and….. you’ll have to watch the show when it comes out to see if we got it!

Argentina is a beautiful country and I felt really at home when we reached Patagonia in the South and got into the mountains.

Crossing the boarder into Chile was spectacular and we met some impressive British cyclists who were cycling around the world, they were 18,000miles into their journey and I was utterly amazed when they told me they were baking their own bread!!  They were carrying with them a camping bread oven – genius.

The winding, long and smooth roads through the Andes were just perfect on the motorbike.  We rode into Chile and all the way to Pichilemu on the coast.  A surfers paradise; great waves, hanging out on the beach, camp fires, stunning sunsets and the best cheese and tomato empanadas I’ve ever had in my life!

Chile is so diverse, we travelled from the chic and bustling international city of Santiago into the vast emptiness of the Atacama dessert – where I had my first experience of boiling eggs in geysers for breakfast! (Photo – Matt Irwin)

Cooking eggs in geysers, Chile.

The trip changed gear in Peru – it was like entering the Twilight zone!  There’s a magical energy about the place and I just loved it.  I had a meeting with a Shaman who read my coco leaves, visited the wonder that is Machu Picchu and had an absolutely brilliant time running wild in Cusco – literally.  Our final stop in Peru was Lima which, at night, is easily the most dangerous place I’ve ever ridden a motorbike!

From Lima we flew to Colombia and into the Amazon where I had a few unexpected treats and again confirmed to myself that I am definitely not a hunter!  The cities in Colombia were fun and the local food is delicious but that’s probably because it was either fried or full of sugar.

Our final destination was Rio de Janeiro and what a place to end the trip.  From the poverty in the favelas to the riches of the Copacabana beach front, Rio’s got it all going on.  We arrived just as the carnivals were finishing but we still found parades and bloc parties!

The final scene we filmed was flying over the city, it was a rather scary take off and landing on the beach was incredible but there were mixed emotions.  I was happy, of course, I’d just landed safely from a wonderful flight but it also marked the end of the trip.

It’s often hard finishing an adventure or a journey, especially when you’ve made strong bonds with your team and been through so much together.  It also really hard to put your experiences into words.  When people ask me “Squash, how was South America?”  I struggle because the answer is a long one and there’s so much to say about it…

“Amazing” sums it up pretty well though.

Paragliding over Rio

Filming in South America

It’s been just over a month since I departed the UK and hit the ground running in Buenos Aires on January 6th – which feels like a very long time ago.  We’re moving at a fast pace and so far have filmed almost five episodes…

I’m working on an adventure travel series and for now that’s pretty much all the detail I can give about exactly what I’m doing.

It’s been a steep learning curve going from filming my own short films on GoPro’s where I’ve been the director, producer and presenter to having a full crew and making hours of television instead of 10minute shorts.

To say it’s been easy would be a lie.  It’s been like climbing a mountain.  Incredible, amazing, tough, difficult, hard, funny, brilliant, stressful, exciting, scary and at times just unbelievable!

The crew are a group of very talented individuals who, like on a mountain too, are making all the difference and fast becoming good friends.  I love working within in a team like this and now we have instruments for the musicians amongst us we’re more like a Rock Band on tour!

Here is a selection of photos that I wanted to share, in no particular order, to give you a glimpse of the past month.

…and there’s still another six weeks to go.

Photos by Daley Hake, Matt Irwin, Monty Tomlinson and Me!

 

Happy New Year!

What an amazing year 2013 has been and 2014 is set to be another incredible one!

Looking back over the past 12 months it’s been quite a year…

Things kicked off in January with Wings of Kilimanjaro, where I was proud to be part of the largest group ever to climb to the summit of the mountain and in the process raise over half a million dollars for three charities making a difference on the ground in Tanzania; The One Foundation, Plant with Purpose and WorldServe International.

I was only back in the UK for a few weeks before beginning The Go Trek with Dave Cornthwaite – a 3074mile, two month journey around Europe by ElliptiGo.  Not only did I get into the best shape physically that I’ve ever been in, I was delighted to get to know the inspirational team at Coppafeel – the fab boob charity we raised over £3000 for – and also to meet so many generous, kind and lovely people along the way.

On my return to the UK I enjoyed being back on two wheels, but this time with an engine and I had a blast taking my BMW F800GS out to the Aosta Valley in Italy where I climbed Monte Rosa.

Before returning back to the UK I rode to Aix Les Bains in France where I took part in the ElliptiGo European Championships.  A great event and brilliant to get to know more of the ElliptiGo community.

In September I was excited to meet up with Ranulph Finnes, Kenton Cool and the Powertraveller Team at The Royal Geographical Society where we were working on a project for the new Powertravller product (due to be released in early 2014).

October and November saw the confirmation of a plan that has been bubbling away in the back ground for a while now.  I took a trip to the States to get to work on pre production and training for a new adventure travel series that I will be filming in 2014 with an amazing team!  The biggest surprise of that trip was learning to BASEJump!!

The year concluded with a trip to South Africa, I was in the sunshine for Christmas and while I was there I took the opportunity to climb Table Mountain.

Even in this quick round up of the year its easy to see that I’ve been able to do some wonderful things in incredible places and raise money for very good causes.

I’m so lucky to have the support of my friends and family, I’ve met some great people in 2013 and I’m proud to work with the teams and companies that I do; PowertravellerRab, BMW, GoPro, Salomon, Suunto, Aosta Valley, Peli & Zaini.

It’s the people in my life and the people who I meet that make all the difference.  Thank you all for your support, encouragement and love.

I hope that 2014 is a wonderful year for everyone …. and don’t forget if you’re knickers are right, then everything goes right!

See you in 2014, Squash! xx

 

BASE Jumping

I arrived in Idaho and got straight down to business!

I’m here for training and pre production work for my ‘next project’ – which I can now reveal is going to be a television series!  As you can imagine I’m very, very excited… and throwing myself (literally!) into all the work that needs to be done.

The team told me that BASE jump training was going ahead with RedBull athlete Miles Daisher.

“Miles has completed more known base jumps then anyone on the planet- well over 2,700.  In 2005, he set a base jumping record by launching 57 times in a single day, climbing a total of nearly 29,000 vertical feet to do so.  Logged over 3,100 skydives.  Creator of two new sports “skyaking” (aerobatic skydiving while seated in a kayak, for high- performance landing on water) and “Rope- swing base jumping” (launching a freewheeling base jump by swinging of a building or bridge).”

If I was going to learn to BASE jump what better coach could I wish for than Miles!

Perrine Bridge, Twin Falls, Idaho
Perrine Bridge, Twin Falls, Idaho

Heading to Twin Falls, I was expecting that the day would be spent talking about BASE jumping, that we’d be doing some theory, looking at kit and seeing the jump site.

It was always my understanding that to BASE jump it was necessary to have a lot of skydives under your belt first. Apparently this isn’t the case.  People can actually learn to BASE jump with no other flying experience but of course it’s far better (and safer) to have the experience of skydiving or paragliding.  Miles said that as I was a paraglider it was great start.

I then learnt that the plan was to spend the morning as I had thought, talking about BASE jumping, doing some theory, looking at kit and seeing the jump site and then the plan for the afternoon….. was to actually go BASE jumping!

Miles is a fireball of energy and his knowledge, expertise and full on approach were brilliant.

We spent time packing up the kit and while Miles was doing that he was explaining how it all works, we talked about the process of learning to BASE jump.  To begin I would do a static line jump – that meant Miles would hold the pilot chute (which is the small parachute that drags open the main chute) so initially the only concern would be jumping. After two seconds of free fall the parachute would open and I would then fly down and land.  Simple!

As we headed out to Perrine Bridge I was getting rather nervous.  Luckily there wasn’t a lot of time to focus on my nerves, Miles worked with us on muscle memory training and talked us through the whole process.  We scouted the landing zone and worked out a Plan A, a Plan B, a Plan C and a Plan Z!

Heading out along the bridge
Heading out along the bridge

Walking out along the bridge was like an out of body experience.  I was scared but it was essential to get a hold of myself and focus on what I was about to do.  It was like the time I fell off Mont Blanc – I was falling but I needed to be calm and sort myself out.  Which is exactly what I did.

I was going first!  Climbing over the railing was probably the worst part, I held on tight and placed my feet.  Once in position – face forward, leaning out – I looked ahead.  The point Miles gave us to look at was a mound of earth that was Evel Knievel’s jump ramp where in 1974 he’d famously attempted to jump the Snake River Canyon on a rocket cycle!

Miles said I was good to go…  I went through my final checks.

“Horizon”

“OK”

“SEE YA” …. and with that flung myself off the bridge!

As experiences go, it was up there with the biggest sensory overload I think I’ve ever had.

The focus, concentration, fear, thrill, physical sensations and relief when you touch down safely are a lot to have going on.

Meeting Miles was brilliant – he’s a unique person and having him as my coach was a privilege.

With Miles and Jonas
With Miles and Jonas

As we drove away from the bridge that evening all I could think was, “Mum is going to be so cross with me”….

Happy!
Happy!

 

This is a short Punkt video clip of one of my first static line jumps…

 

A day with Ranulph Fiennes, Kenton Cool and the Powertraveller Team.

Last week I had the pleasure of going to the Royal Geographical Society in London for a days filming with ‘one of Britain’s leading alpine climbers with record hard first ascents and eleven successful Everest summits’ and ‘the world’s greatest living explorer’.

Ranulph Fiennes and Kenton Cool.

We are all ambassadors for Powertraveller who design, develop and manufacture portable power solutions keeping essential lines of communication open whilst ‘off-grid’.

Powertraveller have been working on a remarkable new product that is going to be a real game changer in the industry.  Ahead of its launch early next year we came together to film the product, see how it works, discuss the limitless power it provides and share our experiences and thoughts.

The Powertraveller team; Jerry, Emma, Will, Mark and Hannah were all on top form when we arrived and Emma soon became everyone’s favourite person when she produced freshly baked home made ginger and chocolate cookies.

I’ve met Kenton and Ran before (Sir Ranulph instantly made me feel comfortable saying “call me Ran”) and it was great to spend more time with them and get to know them better.  Kenton’s energy was overflowing, just back from a bike race in the Pyrenees he was bright eyed, full of enthusiasm and ready to give Ran and I a hard time whenever possible!  Ran was lovely and with just a few days until the deadline to proof read his latest book, ‘Cold’, we discussed whether the title should  have an exclamation mark after it or not.

Talking about a new product that’s brilliant wasn’t difficult.  Talking about a new product concisely and putting it together while being filmed standing next to Ranulph Fiennes and Kenton Cool was a little more tricky.  Kenton likened our task to something from the Krypton factor, which apparently Ran has been on and I had watched….when I was six!

Throughout the day we got chatting about various things including knickers.  We were on the subject of mottos and sayings and Ran said he liked the phrase ‘we have two ears and one mouth so we should perhaps listen more and say less’.  Of course Kenton and I were very quiet all day so this was unlikely to have been directed at us!  He asked if I had a motto so I told him about my Knickers Philosophy – ‘if your knickers are right then your day goes right’.  A large grin appeared on his face and he said he liked it.

It was a brilliant day. I love working with the Powertraveller team (especially when Em has been baking) and it was a real treat to spend the day with Ran and Kenton.

Before we finished we all Copp’ed a feel for Coppafeel showing our support for the charity who’s mission it is to stamp out the late detection and mis-diagnosis of breast cancer by ensuring that you recognise the early signs and symptoms.

Copp'ing a feel for Coppafeel!
Copp’ing a feel for Coppafeel!

During the day I was fully aware of the company I was keeping – both Kenton and Ranulph are legends.  That evening Kenton and I were having a drink with a mutual friend who we both know is a business man…turns out he used to work for MI5 and we were basically having drinks with a real life James Bond…quite an ending to an already epic day!

Live ‘n’ Deadly!

On Saturday morning (1/10/11) I was a guest on Steve Backshall’s Live ‘n’ Deadly tv show. I loved it and had a brilliant time! It was an early start before the show – there are two full rehersals to make sure everyone knows where they are meant to be and what they should be doing.

The Live 'n' Deadly set at 6am

The crew were all lovely and so were both presenters.

With Steve Backshall & Naomi Wilkinson

If you missed the show you can see a short clip here –

Squash on BBC 2’s Live ‘n’ Deadly