The Matt Prior Adventure Academy

Two years ago an email appeared in my inbox from Matt Prior.

“Having recently spoken to our mutual friend about a few trips, your name came up and it reminded me, I still need to write to Squash.  Unfortunately we haven’t met face to face…”

Matt continued by telling about some of his projects and was reaching out to discuss other opportunities.  I had a look around his website and realised he was a pretty remarkable character.

Matt did a Q&A with me as part of a series of interviews to show what effect adventure can have on your life.

He also told me about his baby!  The Matt Prior Adventure Academy.

“A one week adventure like no other.  A no-frills, practical course designed to give you an introduction into Adventure, Travel and Overland Expeditions.
The aim is to show you the benefits of adventure to you and your life. Once you understand the mindset and how to implement what is required, you will be able to achieve anything you want to.”

It sounded remarkable and I thought to myself, I wish I could go on that.

Amazing how things work out!

I finally met Matt, in person at the end of last year and he said he would like me to join him on one of the trips to see what I thought and to see if we both thought this was something I could lead.

My ‘interview’ was two weeks ago.  Matt was very keen that I experienced the adventure academy as he delivers it, so armed with very little information I arrived in Indonesia with my kit and met the team.

The next six days would be off grid and without internet, that I relished, but not knowing what the itinerary was, that was tough!  Not knowing where or how far we would travel or for how long, not knowing when our next meal would be or where we would stay, for me this was a new experience.  I adapted quickly – we all did, we had to!

We were a small team of four and diverse in age and background but an expedition is a great leveler and friendships formed fast.

With a strap line of Live, don’t just exist, the academy packs a huge number of unique experiences into a short space of time.  There was motorbikes, active volcanoes, remote villages, things very few other people have ever seen before and tough times where digging deep and asking a lot of yourself is needed.

I hadn’t really thought about the fact that most of the expeditions I’ve done previously have been in cold environments in dry air.  The intense heat, high humidity and tropical rain storms were a shock to my system and I was so out of my comfort zone – which of course is where the magic happens.

If this trip was easy then everyone would do it, with very limited spaces available each person is interviewed and what follows is a week of tough, unforgettable experiences that show you who you are and more importantly what you are capable of.

If you have an adventurous spark but are not really sure where to start then click here and you’ve already begun and I might just be seeing you in Indonesia next year for an amazing adventure.

 

 

 

Honza Rejmanek – Red Bull X-Alps Athlete 2015

The sky was grey but the storm had passed, it was moving South and as luck would have it I had just flown North.  Waiting at Sacramento airport I pondered what it was going to be like meeting ‘The Honza’.

The Red Bull X-Alps in July 2015 will be the 39 year old’s 5th time in the race.  Understanding more about the event it’s little wonder it has gained itself the title, the world’s toughest adventure race.  Athletes must travel a straight line distance of 1000km by foot or by paraglider from Salzburg to Monaco.

The bar is raised every year, Maurer – who won last years race in a record 6 days 23 hours –  with his bird like instincts has taken the competition to another level.  For Honza, of course another podium finish would be incredible but his ultimate challenge, yet to be realised, is to reach goal in Monaco.  There’s a rule that means once the winner is in goal, the race stops after two days (as long as the overall race finishes in no less than 12 days).  His best result was 3rd in 2009 but he’s never made the finish.

I heard a voice shouting “Squash!” there was a tall, athletic looking man in shorts (it was freezing!) with long hair scraped back into a pony tail, it was Honza.  I headed his way.  As I approached the car I saw a blond haired little boy smiling and looking up at me, “that’s my son, Martin.  I just picked him up from school.”  said Honza as he took my bag from me, lifting all 23kgs in one hand like it was weightless.

In the front of the car was a huge black spider, “I made it for Halloween.” Martin told me.  I admired the spider, especially all the glitter and jewels it was decorated with.

There’s nothing like a child to break the ice and bring the conversation down to basics.  We soon covered our ages and what had been going on at school that day.  “Usually I pick Martin up from school and run home with him on my shoulders, then run back to collect the car” said Honza.  Immediately I was getting a glimpse into how this guy makes his training work with a young family.

I’d got lucky being able to meet Honza in person.  I was in LA and had a weekend to spare before flying home, I contacted him to see if we could meet up for a hike and fly and it just so happened I’d picked the weekend before Honza and his family were departing for Chile – where they spend Christmas.  It only gave us a day though, I arrived on Friday evening, we had Saturday and I was leaving again on Sunday morning.

On arrival at Honza’s home I met his lovely wife Barbara and Martin showed me to my room, his room, which he was kindly letting me stay in.  Honza told me about the stunning images that were hung on the walls.  Many were taken in Chile, where Honza has recently built a cabin, a place for all his family to go to and where he hopes to be able to spend more and more time flying and enjoying the outdoors.  The cabin looks out onto the volcano Villarrica where Honza carried out much of the practical side of his Meteorology degree.  He said that’s the reason he was in such good shape for the first X-Alps – he hiked up and down it many times that year.

Dinner was a team effort. Honza, Barbara and Martin were all involved.  Martin was wielding a kitchen knife to cut the mushrooms and I watched, impressed by the five year old’s competency,  as he sliced and chopped.  It was a lovely evening.  I was made to feel very welcome.  Barbara smiled, saying that she was happy I was there to go and hike and fly with Honza as it would give her the day off, telling me, she loves cities but a city break isn’t something that happens too often.  “Honza never ever, ever stops.  We are always, hiking and camping and doing something active.  These days if he’s moving too fast we try and weigh him down with Martin and all the camping equipment!”  She joked.

Honza & Martin testing the solar panels before bed!
Honza & Martin testing the solar panels before bed!

After dinner, nervous of just what ‘a hike’ with Honza might entail I was conscious a good nights sleep was needed.  Honza and I packed our kit for the next morning.  We’d leave early.

We really had got lucky with the weather, the storm had passed when I arrived and Saturday was the only day with no rain and light winds forecast.  I rose just after 6am, Honza was already up and playing with Martin.  He told me that he’s usually up around 5am as he prefers to get to work early so he can leave in time to collect Martin and do the school run!  His day job, as an atmospheric scientist, was a compromise, Honza wanted freedom but also had a family to think about.   The flexible hours, being able to work outdoors and going on trips that were conducive to paragliding when he’d finished for the day made it a good compromise.

Our plan for the day was to head to San Francisco, grab a couple of photos at the Golden Gate bridge and then hike up and around Mt Tamalpais with a view to flying if the weather played ball.

Honza checking out his Powertraveller kit at the Golden Gate Bridge.
Honza checking out his Powertraveller kit at the Golden Gate Bridge.

We soon reached a road block, the storms had caused land slides and the roads to the car parks on Mt Tam were closed.  Honza thought for a few seconds, turned the car around and we headed to Stinson beach.  “We’ll hike from here, it’s better training anyway going from the bottom, and then we’ll land on the beach near the car if we can fly.”

It turned out to be a brilliant plan, the road blocks meant most people had simply turned around so not only did we have a beautiful hike but we had the entire place to ourselves.  Wasting no time we hopped out of the car and Honza began organising the most incredible amount of food and water.  He had supplies that would have kept us going for days.  I looked at him, slightly puzzled and asked how long was this hike we would be going on? He laughed and said, “I know, I know, I have way too much.”  He then explained that he had ‘Ruwenzori Syndrome’. “Back in 1991 my family and I did a week long backpacking trip in the Ruwenzori mountians in Uganda, my brother and I felt that we didn’t have enough food and so it’s been an inside family joke that ever since we take too much.”

We left the car and set off, uphill, towards take off.  Despite being known for and openly admitting that he doesn’t like social media or attention it was clear that, after less than 24hrs with Honza, it wasn’t because he’s shy or doesn’t like talking.  In fact he’s the opposite, Honza has plenty to say, he’s generous and thoughtful in conversation and has a willingness to share information.  He just doesn’t see the point in wasting so much time interacting with a screen when there is so much to be done… outside, that’s real.  And he’s got a point.

As we hiked up and up I tried to ask questions which required a long answer.  The more talking Honza did, the better I was able to keep up with him!

We reached a take off. There was an option to go higher to another one, but we both agreed we should take advantage of the conditions right now and go for this opportunity to fly.  We looked out to a tree on the beach, it was the landing zone marker, and discussed a flight plan, with the standard back up ‘if in doubt, fly straight out and head for the beach’.

I was running through my final checks and Honza was set up next to me waiting for me to go.  He would take off after me.  What an honour it was to be sharing the sky with this man.  A Red Bull X-Alps athlete!  I took a deep breath, using the fear that is always present every time I fly to focus, I waited for the moment and went for it.  Commitment to a take off is as vital as fuel is to a jet plane.  You won’t get off the ground without it.  I was in lift immediately.  It was perfect conditions for flying.

Honza took off straight after I was in the air and found lift, he went higher and higher.  I wasn’t so bold and played safe, soon heading out towards the ocean and a very satisfying beach landing.  I looked up for Honza, he’d reached cloud base!  I was delighted he was having such a good flight and wondered if I’d been too quick to head for the landing when there was clearly lift to be had.

I packed up my glider, sat on a chunk of driftwood and looked out to the ocean.

Honza landed with a smile as wide as his glider!  He had been up to cloud base, which unbeknown to me was almost unheard of in this flying location.  It was now after lunch time and rather than a stop for lunch we decided to eat while we hiked and try and get in another flight.

I asked Honza about food.  I wondered if he had a strict plan or followed a particular diet.  “Not really” he answered.  I wasn’t surprised.  Having already covered this topic when I met Red Bull athlete Tom De Dorlodot I had a feeling they would have a similar theory about food…. and training for that matter.  These guys don’t separate their everyday life from their training.  This is what they do, it’s who they are.  The most important thing for them is to listen to their bodies.  Honza said for the X-Alps itself he had figured out a diet that worked well for him during the race.  He had juice soaked chai seeds for breakfast, an egg sandwich once he’d got going, energy gels during the day and quinoa with veg/meat in the evening and plenty of water.

By the time we reached take off again the wind was coming over the back and it was impossible to take off, so we continued our hike.  There was another take off higher up but the chances of flying now were very slim.  Wandering up through the woods we came across a banana slug!  It was huge.  Honza suggested I took a photo of it next to the powermonkey explorer 2 so that you could get an idea of its size.

Powermonley explorer 2 with a banana slug
Powermonley explorer 2 with a banana slug

The powermonkey is not only a brilliant portable, waterproof and tough power solution that can be used to show the size of slugs, it’s also the reason I got to meet Honza in the first place.  Powertraveller, who make the product are partners of the Red Bull X-Alps 2015 and as their ambassador I have the wonderful job of getting to meet the people who are using the kit and work alongside them to understand their needs and how the product can be the best it can be.  I asked Honza for a photo of him with his new powermonkey explorer 2.  I said, “you can do what you like in the photo” not thinking for a minute he’d find the nearest rock and back flip off it!  But that’s what he did!

Honza doing a backflip with his powermonkey explorer 2
Honza doing a backflip with his powermonkey explorer 2

We reached the higher take off and the sun was beginning to set.  The wind was still coming over the back and we both agreed at least we’d been lucky enough to get one good flight that day, inwardly, obviously, both not wanting to hike back down.  We didn’t rush to start walking, instead we wandered around and stalled… hoping the wind might die down.  It did!  Not quite believing our luck we had our gliders out and wasting no time I ran as hard and fast as I could in order to make the nil wind (bordering on slight downhill wind) take off.  Once airborne I knew there was still a chance of not making the beach, there was no lift at all and a ridge and trees to clear before it was a glide to the landing tree on the beach.  I lifted my legs high, as if that would make any difference!!  and focused on judging the ridge, could I make it?  I was at the point of no return, I held my breath as I cleared the trees and looked behind to see Honza was right there.  It was a magical flight – ocean, beach, a sunset and Honza.  There I was with The Honza!

We drove back to Sacramento, both elated from the perfect day we’d had.  We’d managed to time it so well with the weather.  Martin was pretty exhausted when we got back.  He and Barbara had been at a party and he needed to go to bed.  He assured me though he would show me his moves on the trampoline before I left in the morning.

Martin wasn’t the only one tired that night, I was pretty tired too.  I suspect, for Honza, it was a very easy day, but we were both happy with getting two flights.

In the morning we were up at 6am again.  Honza and Martin took me on a tour of the neighbourhood, Martin on his bike and Honza and I ran.  Honza thought it would be good if I got some movement in before my day of travel that lay ahead.  We ate fresh fruit from the trees, tomatoes from the garden and stopped for a game of frisbee in the park.  Back at the house Barbara had made pancakes – it was a good job we’d been out running afterall!

I was all packed and ready to leave when Martin remembered the trampoline, we rushed out for a quick display and then I left for the airport.

Like father like son!  Martin & Honza on the trampoline.
Like father like son! Martin & Honza on the trampoline.

It was, even by my standards, a whirlwind trip, but in less than 48hrs I was able to get to know Honza and his family just a little bit and to understand the man they call ‘The Honza’.

Before I met him, a friend of his described him to me…

“His loyalty goes beyond reason.  He doesn’t fall to group ideas because he is his own man. He would be the unknown Samari of the sky without the X-Alps.  He is the paragliding bum turned into respectable family man.  He truly believes the X-Alps is the perfect game. He believes in earning the right to compete and has the up most respect for guys who get the Red Bull ride.  His concern for fellow athletes is more powerful then his desire to win and he of course gets caught up in the excitement of the race.  To him the race is as real as life and to not give your all, to not go to the wall and beyond it is just plain disrespectful to the whole concept.  He knows you win nothing real, but to race without honour, to cheat or to not go into it with your full passion and heart is an insult. He will do his best to race and focus on trying to beat the next closest guy until its over.  Even when its over he is wishing it would go on.  He is a true vol bivy spirit. A true X-Alper.  He does it for the passion he has for racing and flying.  One of the few who enjoys a punishing hike against the clock always, as a measure of fun.”

… and I couldn’t have put it better myself.

 

Honza Rejmanek
Honza Rejmanek

 

 

 

Climbing Grande Sassiere

Twelve years ago resting on the side of a ski piste in Tignes, France, we were looking across the valley to the largest peak on the horizon.

“That’s Sassiere, you can climb that” announced my friend Jason and I thought that seemed like a cool thing to do and made a mental note that one day I might just try it.

…and finally last week that ‘one day’ arrived!

GoPro summit photo!

Earlier this year in June I did a recky for the climb with Kath; one of my best friends, mother of three and constant source of inspiration to me and last week I was back in Tignes for three days and the weather was looking good.

Our recky climb proved invaluable, it’s easy to go wrong at the start of this climb and we had done just that!  (From the car park near the lake, take the HIGHER path through the meadows!).

Our alarm went off at 4.30am and we had reached the car park by 5.20am and although almost a full moon, the cloud covering shut out all the light and it was pitch black.  We were so excited to finally be attempting this peak.

5.20am and ready to go!

It’s a steep ascent to the start of the West ridge. Our first hour was in darkness and looking back we could see the dimly lit Tignes villages.

Dimly lit Tignes behind us

As the sun came up we had reached the rocky ridge and welcomed the ease of some flat-ish ground to cover before the scramble leading to the snowy ridge and the final rock ascent.  Being late in the season most of the snow was melted so although we used ice axes we didn’t need our crampons.

Making good time we had a break around 7am, added a few layers and took in the views which were getting more impressive with every meter we climbed.

The final rocky section was trickier than I expected, it was icy and quite slippery.  I’d been focusing on my feet and looked up to see the summit was close.  Our route up was still in shade but as we reached the top at 8.44am the morning sun hit us and the incredible view over the Aosta Vally was breath taking.

Stunning views from the summit

In fact the entire view was breath taking and the moving cloud made it all the more dramatic.  For a few minutes we had glimpses of Mont Blanc but within 20mins the entire summit was in cloud.  We had been so lucky to have arrived before the cloud set in.

Views over the Aosta Valley

It was brutally cold at the top, so after a quick test of Powertravellers new Powermonkey Explorer 2 battery unit charging the GoPro and a few photos we headed back down.

Testing the Powermonkey Explorer 2Kath and I were both in very high spirits on the way down, it was brutal on our knees but it was such a great feeling to have finally reached the top of Sassiere.  We were back at the car before noon and by 1pm were drinking mugs of hot tea … Delighted!

Heading back down

Sassiere is 3,751m it’s a mountain in the Graian Alps on the boundary between the Aosta Valley and the French Savoie.

 

 

 

 

People, motorbikes, climbing and flying…

One of the things I absolutely love to do is combine my passions into one big adventure.

So I’m about to do just that!

Over the next few days I’ll be making my way to the Aosta Valley in Italy on my BMW F800GS, staying with friends on the way and then climbing Monte Rosa when I arrive.

For a few years I’ve wanted to climb Monte Rosa, the “Pink Mountain”.  Sitting on the boarder of Italy and Switzerland, at 4,634m it’s the highest mountain in Switzerland and the second-highest in both the Alps and western Europe.

Monte Rosa
Monte Rosa

It’s also home to the highest construction in Europe – The Regina Margherita Hut –  located at 4,559 metres, not only is the hut a refuge for climbers but it serves as an observatory and research centre as well.  The plan is to spend a night there before our summit push.

The Margarita Hut
The Margarita Hut

I’m going to take my paraglider with me and will aim to do some flying while I’m in the area too.

After the climb, I’ll make my way to Aix Les Bains, because it has worked out that just a day after I’ll be down from the mountain I will be able to attend the first ElliptiGo European Championships!  I’ll probably be quite tired… but I’m excited to be involved in the event and to see my fellow ElliptiGo’ers!

This trip has been finalised in the last week; I’ve only just booked my Chanel crossing (with hours to go) and I’m not completely sure of the route I’ll take to Aosta.  Sometimes though you just have to seize opportunities and Go for it!  

It’ll be a two week adventure combining some of my favourite things; people, motorbikes, climbing, flying and ElliptiGo’ing!

As always I like to get behind a good cause when I take on a new challenge so I’ve set up a just giving page in support of Coppafeel, a breast cancer awareness charity.

I’m aiming to raise £185.50 as Monte Rosa was first climbed in 1855.

If you’d like to support this next effort here’s a link to the page

Squash’s JustGiving page for Coppafeel

Go on 'Coppafeel!
Go on ‘Coppafeel!

Thank you! xx

 

 

 

 

The Go Trek – Week Six

It feels like Christmas!  Throughout the entire Go Trek we’ve experienced generosity in every form from family, friends and strangers but I think the start of week six has been a record for wonderful gifts.  It’s also been exceptionally different to the other weeks – Dave and I have split up for a few days, so I’ve had some solo time which is a new experience for me on a trip.  Distance wise I’ve stepped things up a gear (two consecutive days of 100miles plus with the trailer!) and the ElliptiGo continues to amaze me as an incredible machine to travel and get fit on.

The week started with post!  Two handmade SayYesMore flags arrived from new friends we’d met the previous week, Wolfgang and Siglande.  Thank you for the time and effort that went into these – we LOVE them.

We left Isny and called at DM – a German health food store – on route to Oberstaufen for a mini ElliptiGo event.  Marco the general manager greeted us with cups of tea, a slice of rhubarb sponge cake and a bag of treats for the road!

Thank you Marco from DM!  Lovely treats...
Thank you Marco from DM! Lovely treats…

Our 32mile day to Oberstaufen saw us pass through rolling hills and lakes – Bavaria Germany is stunning.

Bavaria, Germany
Bavaria, Germany

We met another German TV crew and they gave us and our charity Coppafeel some great coverage.

Click here to watch the news piece – the dubbing is brilliant!

That evening we were welcomed to the Hotel Adler by some men in the most fabulous outfits!!  We had a lovely time; delicious food, great company and comfy beds.  The hotel is in the most beautiful spot too.

Great guys - great outfits!
Great guys – great outfits!

Thank you so much to Nicole and Hedi for the wonderful bracelets and for the home made Nutella muffins!

Say yes to the lIfe!
Say yes to the lIfe!

We were sad to say goodbye to our newest German friends.  Daryn, the ElliptiGo distributer in Germany, especially you!  We spent so much time with you and your family this week we began to feel like part of the family ourselves.  Thank you for all you did for us.  (Especially the breakfast of Toblerone and Pain au Chocs).

Wednesday was an incredible day.  Breakfast in Germany, lunch in Austria and dinner in Switzerland!!

….And Fredl met us that morning with surprise gifts!  To say I was delighted was an under statement!  Their website is worth a look – www.bike-trachten.at

haha what fantastic tops!
haha what fantastic tops!

We reached St Gallen in Switzerland and had the pleasure of meeting Peter, Ruth and Paul (the Swiss ElliptiGo dealers).  Paul gave us limited edition yellow Swiss Army knifes – thank you so much Paul, the perfect tool for our trip – and I discovered Peter has shares in Lindt chocolate.  Apparently at the annual shareholders meeting everybody gets 5kgs of chocolate.  I’m thinking of getting some shares.

The next day Dave and I split up!  It’s not as bad as it sounds, Dave had friends in Zurich to see and I had friends in France who I wanted to see so we decided to split for a few days and reunite at our next event in Aix Les Bains.

Click here to see our farewell Punkt video..

I’ve actually never done any adventure or expedition solo.  I was both excited and a little nervous at the prospect.  I arranged to stay with a friend of a friend, Tilly, that evening.  I’d never met Tilly before and we had a great time.  Tilly is a grandma – she’s warm, lovely and full of life.  Tilly joined me for the first 10.5miles the next day, it was cool to have a local guide and I was sad to say goodbye.  When I’m older I hope I’m like Tilly!

Back in Germersheim Germany, the previous week, Wolfgang had given us a contact for a bed for the night in Nidau Switzerland.  From Tilly’s to Nidau it was 99.9miles.  I knew it would be a long day but I was thrilled at the thought of doing my first century on an ElliptiGo with a trailer and I also liked the idea of having friendly faces at the end of the day.  It’s a running joke amongst my friends and family that I can’t navigate, however, only once did I go off track (and that was due to a closed cycle path).. and it was pretty funny where I ended up!   ……  In a field of naked people.

Here’s a short Punkt video about the day…

By 8pm I had reached my destination.  I saw a house with a very special fence and thought, ‘I hope that’s where I’m staying’, and it was!

Look at the fence!
Look at the fence!

Michael, Marie and their family welcomed me, fed me, helped me with the following days route planning, impressed me with their bike collection and gave me something I’ve never had for breakfast before – butter, nutella and salted caramel spread on bread – the breakfast of champions!  Delicious!!  Yet again I felt blessed to have met and spent time with more lovely people…

I set off in the sunshine with surprisingly ready legs (no aches or pains from the previous days 100mile effort!).  I had a route plan that roughly meant I would pass by both Lake Neuchatel and Lake Geneva with no arrangements for accommodation that evening.  It was a beautiful day.  I smiled to myself a lot, I met strangers who were fascinated by the ElliptiGo and who donated to Coppafeel, I found a HUGE bench, I absorbed the stunning views, enjoyed the long rolling roads of Switzerland and just felt very happy – even when later in the day the rain came.

I reached Geneva a few miles short of 100miles so went up and down the lakes edge until my Suunto watch read 100!!!  A second day of 100miles!  I was thrilled!!

Another 100miles!
Another 100miles!

I also realised it was 9pm.  I decided to get out of Geneva and find somewhere to camp.  Darkness soon fell, I crossed the boarder into France and felt nervous, lonely and worried – where would I sleep?  I’d left it very late.  I spotted a great piece of grass and some trees and soon realised they belonged to a huge house and were part of a walled garden.  I decided to have a closer look, the lounge window of the house was open and a black cat was purring at me.. this had to be a good sign?!  I called up in my best French and soon a very confused lady came to me.  It was 10pm, dark and there I was, a wet ElliptiGo’er standing in her garden!  Erica was a delight, she spoke English and soon I was setting my tent up under a tree, my ElliptiGo was in the garden shed and I felt safe.

Here’s a little Punkt video from the Garden I was so pleased to be in…

The next day I reached Aix Les Bains… where Dave and I will reunite on Saturday for an event before heading South.  It’s been odd travelling without him.  I’m very much someone who likes to be part of a team and I’ve missed my team mate!  However, I’ve had a great few days.  I’m feeling rather overwhelmed by the love, support, wonderful gifts and pure kindness people are giving us.

The ElliptiGo and ElliptiGo’ing has again gone to another level.  After my 100mile day with the trailer I didn’t think realistically I’d be able to have another long day, let alone a 115mile day!  Loving it!

www.thegotrek.com

 

The Go Trek – Week Four

There have been some big events this week; we kicked off by ElliptiGo’ing the entire length of the River Ahr doing our first century on the GO’s (100 miles in one day), we had our first night camping, we slept in a barrel and we passed the 1000 mile mark – making this journey officially Journey No.8 for Dave’s Expedition 1000 project.

We thought we’d done pretty well making it to Day 23 before we got the tent out!  It was a lovely spot by the River Lahn and there was a full moon.

Our first night in the wild!
Our first night in the wild!

We woke to the sound of rain – which was a bit miserable.  It did clear up though so we dried the tent while enjoying breakfast in Bad Ems having got the photos we’d gone there to get!

Emma Jones this is for you!
Emma Jones this is for you!

The sun only teased us for about half an hour and we set off again in the rain, we back tracked to the Rhine and both pulled over in Kamp Bornhofen, without saying a word, when we saw two huge barrels by the waters edge!

The barrel by the Rhine!
The barrel by the Rhine!

On closer inspection we discovered one of the barrels had two camp beds in it.  Obviously we had to stay there!!  We found Torban, the owner of the barrels and discovered he was a German champion chef back in the 90’s!  He prepared us some delicious food, insisted we used his hotel sauna to relax our muscles, and invited us to sleep in the barrel that evening.  I was so excited to be staying in a barrel!

If barrels aren’t your thing Hotel Ankor has huge lovely rooms with water beds, the food is delicious and the family who run it are welcoming, generous and kind.

After a barrel of laughs (!) that evening we set off the next day and didn’t get far, just down the road in Kaub Am Rhein we spotted this!

Benno's bike!
Benno’s bike!

Benno, the maker of the bike and owner of the truck stop it sat outside, invited us in for tea.  He also fed us chips, gave us Benny’s truck stop fleeces and oil – for our ElliptiGO chains.  Benno, thank you!

That evening we reached Wiesbaden and stopped outside the www.KRKG.de rowing club.  I wandered in and saw some young rowers and Einstein!  He looked me up and down, came outside to meet Dave, took one look at the ElliptiGO’s and smiled.  He thought they were wonderful and hopped on for a test ride.  Einstein turned out to be Axel, the rowing club coach.  Over tea and cake he told us that he’d been at the club since he was 12 and had rowed for Germany.  I was amazed when he announced he was 70!  He departed some life advice on Dave and I …

“Decide in your life; that which is important and that which is not.”

…and told us we could camp on the club grounds and use the facilities.

What a lovely man. I hope I get to 70 and if I do I hope I’m that cool and that full of life.

Dave and I with Axel
Dave and I with Axel

Here’s a little Punkt video we made that evening…!  Axel and the rowing club punkt video.

Having mostly been rained on this journey, except for in the UK where it was gloriously sunny, we were happy to start the next day in full sunshine.  I optimistically put on shorts and a sleeveless top.  Soon we were drenched and cold and adding warm layers.  The rain stopped as we approached Frankfurt – a very significant point in our journey.  1000 miles.  This whole project came about because of Expedition 1000 – Dave’s project that will see him do 25 journeys of 1000 miles or more on non motorized transport.  The Go Trek officially became journey number 8.  Yay!!

1000 miles Punkt video.

Apparently we’d arrived in Frankfurt during the skyscraper festival hence the streets being so crowded.  It was great but we couldn’t stop for long; we had to make it to Dharmstat that evening – an ElliptiGo dealer called Stefan had invited us to stay in his shop!  ‘Der Mover’ is like no other shop I’ve ever been to.  A bike shop with a party room attached; there’s every kind of bike you can imagine to ride on, karaoke, lasers, baby football tables and all in the most magnificently decorated themed rooms.

The party room at Der Mover
The party room at Der Mover

Stefan took us out for sushi, drove us faster than I’ve ever been driven to the top of a multi story car park, sang karaoke songs to us and showed us a laser show.  Just another regular evening on The Go Trek then!

The end of this week was marked with a glorious evening by the Rhine.  We headed South from Darmstadt, the sun came and we had a dry nights camping by the waters edge.

Sunset
Sunset over the Rhine

It’s been another week of meeting kind, interesting and lovely people.  Both Dave and I are getting fitter and the endurance challenge we are facing, whilst tough at times, feel very do able on the ElliptiGo’s.  I’m also LOVING Germany.  It’s a country I’ve never travelled in before and (despite a lot of rain – which we’re repeatedly told is unusual for this time of year!) it’s beautiful, lots of history, culture, great cities and warm people.  I want to come back here… maybe on my BMW GS 800 next time!!

For more info on the trip please follow us on www.thegotrek.com

Thank you to all who have donated already to our chosen charity, Coppafeel.  To donate and support us in our aim to raise £3000 please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

The significance of three weeks

I always think that if I’m going to get into a habit, work into a new routine or see a change physically, mentally or emotionally then the usual amount of time to adjust is about three weeks.

We’re exactly three weeks into The Go Trek.

769miles of ElliptiGo‘ing through the UK, Holland and now into Germany.

So what’s happened?…

Physically my body is a little different.  I was curious to know where and how my body might change.  When you ride an ElliptiGo, perhaps surprisingly, you feel it not only in your legs but also arms, stomach and back – it’s an all over workout.  My arms have more definition than they ever have had, my muscles are stronger and my body is leaner, although I’ve stayed the same weight.  I wondered if my thighs and bum might chunk up a little bit like they did when I cycled Lands End to John O’Groats but they haven’t – which is nice!

ElliptiGo arms!
ElliptiGo arms!

Dave has lost weight and his already impressive calves have even more definition!

Dave Calves Cornthwaite
Dave Calves Cornthwaite

I’m definitely in the routine of eating, sleeping, eating, ElliptiGo’ing, presenting/speaking, eating and sleeping some more.  I have everything organised in my trailer.  Everything has its place.  All items are grouped and put in dry bags, which all fit perfectly into my two Aquapac rucksacks that, as if made to measure, fit exactly into my trailer!

All my luggage neatly packed!
All my luggage neatly packed!

Mentally and emotionally my head is in the journey.  Different to a lot of other trips I’ve done, this trip has presented quite new challenges.  We’ve yet to camp!  The journey (so far) has not been about roughing it.  The challenge has come from the long physical days, followed by events and presentations that has meant on average we’re getting around 6-7hrs sleep a night.

I’m loving spending time with family, friends, friends of friends and new people who we’ve never met before.  We are meeting wonderful people and finding ourselves in remarkable situations.  Right now, Dave and I are currently staying at a Winery Boutique Hotel, our ElliptiGo’s are in a shed – the wine fermentation and bottling shed!  This wasn’t planned.  We met the vino family yesterday, they invited us to stay and we simply said “Yes, thank you”.

Wine bottling/ElliptiGo parking shed
Wine bottling/ElliptiGo parking shed

I’m also really feeling like I’m getting to know Dave better.  Before the start of this trip Dave and I had spent 4-5hrs in each others company.  Dave is humble, he’s accomplished amazing things (including being tetras European, adult category, Champion when he was 12yrs old!), he’s good to travel with, considerate and ridiculous.  The ridiculous part is important – if you’re not smiling and having a good time, at least sometimes, then what on earth are you doing?!

Team Douche Bag!
Team Douche Bag!

www.thegotrek.com

 

 

 

 

 

The Go Trek – Week Two

I’m writing this blog from Schaijk, a town South of Utrecht in Holland.  It’s seems hard to believe that just a week ago we had reached our Southern most destination in the UK and were heading North again towards Harwich.

After Ditchling Beacon (the third highest point on the South Downs) Dave and I thought the rolling hills were pretty much over for England – how wrong we were!

Dave and I are really getting into shape now!
Dave and I are really getting into shape now!

We departed Brighton pier with our entourage – Ali B on her bike and for a short while Chris on his moped.  Then we hit hills, lots of them.  The North Downs are most definitely not flat!  We stopped for a pretty lengthy lunch consisting of delicious sandwiches (thank you Loobey), Chocolate Digestives (thank you Super Cycling Man) and Lindt chocolate (thank you Ali B)!  Then we made our way to Tonbridge where the sun was shining and people had been out mowing their lawns – it felt like a typical British summer’s afternoon. We spent the night at Dave’s cousin’s house and for the first time we did some stretching and ‘rolling’ which felt good!

Rolling on the Fit Bar
Rolling on the Fit Bar

Dave’s aunty called round and I liked her very much, she is a whirlwind of energy and sadly didn’t stay long – although long enough to tell us we were both mad!  Dave’s cousin has two small children, Stella (age3) got out her book called ‘a Squash and a Squeeze’ and wondered if Dave’s name was actually Squeeze!  Funny as only the night before, having never seen or heard of this book, my god-daughter Flo had chosen the very same one for her bedtime story.

After a grand feast we slept really well and being so organized, left the next morning bang on time! I then realised that I’d left my gloves in the house – just as Dave had shut the latched door. Luckily, a helpful neighbour had a ladder and I was able to retrieve my gloves!

Just climbing through a window - as you do!
Just climbing through a window – as you do!

More hills and a few miles later we were met by fellow ElliptiGo’er Chris, who works at the Cyclopark in Gravesend – our destination for the evenings test ride and presentation. Having experienced some serious hill ascents the joy of the descents came and with the wind behind us we were ecstatic to hit a record time for a five mile distance of 17 minutes and 14 seconds!

Here’s a little clip just after we made our record – Punkt – The Go Trek 

The Cyclopark was really good fun, lots of people who have never been on an ElliptiGo came and tried them out – I think Deb’s was the most delighted!

Deb's first time on an ElliptiGO
Deb’s first time on an ElliptiGO

Thanks to the staff at Cyclopark we had a great evening and a fun presentation before we hit the road for a short trip to stay with a friend’s in-laws, who stayed up until 11pm and fed us the most delicious dinner.  Thank you Jo!

The next morning whilst packing our trailers we were presented with a cake – IDEAL – perfect snack food!  After a short ferry crossing (Gravesend to Tilbury) we were joined by Andy, a good friend of mine who I’d met when I was 18 – he had been a guest in the chalet I ran in France!  We soon stopped for a cup of tea to accompany our cake.

Tea and Cake!
Tea and Cake!

Another pretty good day, I think we had few minutes rain but that was soon forgotten when we arrived at our night stop – Andy’s place wasn’t too shabby.

Humble lodgings for the night!
Humble lodgings for the night!

Andy’s place is actually New Hall School in Chelmsford. We had school dinner in the canteen, visited the design & technology centre for some trailer maintenance and then did a presentation for some of the students. The night ended with a very splendid hot chocolate and Andrea exclaiming that “ElliptiGo’s are my future!”

School Dinner!
School Dinner!
A bit of Gaffa tape needed!
A bit of Gaffa tape needed!
Presentation at New Hall School
Presentation at New Hall School

When Dave said we were being joined by some mates for our final day in the UK I wasn’t expecting anyone to turn up on a BMX!

Ben waving on his BMX!!
Ben waving on his BMX!!

Ben did though, and he kept up!  We were also joined by the Mississippi Challenge 2013 boys.  Probably my favourite part of the day was this interview we did at Colchester castle…  Punkt – The Go Trek

We made it to Harwich in plenty of time for the ferry so Dave and I headed for Morrison’s to buy supplies and dinner. Amazingly, the Manager saw us in our Go Trek t-shirts and asked about what we were doing – he then said dinner was on him and we could get whatever we liked from the cafe!

I still can’t quite believe it now.

Lovely Morrison's manager!
Lovely Morrison’s manager!

The ferry was MASSIVE. We tucked our ElliptiGo’s into a corner of the lower car deck and made for our cabin. 443 miles ElliptiGo’d in the UK and now we were Holland bound!

ElliptiGo's on the ferry
ElliptiGo’s on the ferry

It wasn’t the best wake-up call I’ve ever experienced, ‘don’t worry be happy’ bellowing out of the speaker in the ceiling of the cabin followed by very loud announcements every 10mins that breakfast was being served on the upper deck. They started at 6 am and we weren’t even due to dock until 7.45am!

After the incredible weather we had in the UK I was expecting even more sunshine and warmth, instead we were greeted by grey clouds and rain.  It wasn’t all bad though – Ned, a friend of Dave’s, had joined us on the ferry and was accompanying us for the day on his Whike!  A very cool wind surf/bike machine… cool until the chain snapped and Ned needed a tow.

ElliptiGo towing a Whike!
ElliptiGo towing a Whike!

Chris and John, two Dutch guys had met us off the ferry and were escorting us to Rotterdam Central Park. John towed the Whike and Chris arranged a mid-morning tea stop at his friend’s hotel which was very lovely and a welcome break form the rain. Next stop was the park and on our arrival I couldn’t quite believe my eyes when I saw Jan! He was the guy we’d met just outside Leicester last week and had come to see us – bearing gifts of Nutella and chocolate.

We love this man!

Jan the chocolate fairy!
Jan the chocolate fairy!

We also met Prince Pieter Christiaan. He came to our presentation at the running club and presented us with some Go Trek ElliptiGo underwear which was pretty cool. It’s not every day that one gets knickers from a Prince!

Five hours later we’d arrived just south of Amsterdam – it had been our longest day and we were tired! Arnoud, a Dutch ElliptiGO champion and all round lovely guy, had accompanied us. I was pretty excited about where we stayed. Punkt – Hotel Fletcher

Sunday was our rest day – apparently! We had been entered into a 45km race and we made the start but not much further – preferring the breakfast and hot drink option instead and that afternoon we had the chance to see Ned again and test ride the Whikes for ourselves. Brilliant FUN!

Loving the Whike!
Loving the Whike!

The start of this week has been busy and fortunately more chocolate has found its way to us – thank you Fritz!  We’re getting through the miles and have already completed over 600!

The flatness of Holland combined with the cycle paths here makes for easier ElliptiGo’ing, which has been a welcome change – Dave and I although feeling good are a little tired!

Our total donations for Coppafeel are now at £1,164.36.  Thank you to everyone who has and is supporting us.

We are having fun using Punkt – an interactive map where we are showing photos and short video clips as we go.  See The Go Trek Punkt Map Here.

We are now selling The GoTrek t-shirts via the ‘Say Yes More’ website so don’t forget to get your-self one before they all disappear!

To buy a GoTrek t-shirt click this link.  Each sale supports Coppafeel.

 

Say Yes More Go Trek t-shirts
Say Yes More Go Trek t-shirts

 

 

 

 

 

 

The GoTrek – Final Preparations

On Tuesday morning Dave Cornthwaite and I will be making our way to Liverpool to start our next adventure;  The Go Trek – a world record distance of 3000 mile’s around Western Europe on our ElliptiGo‘s.

As we cross five countries our mission is very simple; to raise money for the breast cancer charity Coppafeel, to encourage people to join us and share the love of good adventure with a simple message ‘say yes more‘ and all whilst having a very good time!

It’s strange to be starting in Liverpool, which is so close to home and for once in the UK – so often my trips begin after a long haul flight.  We have chosen this as our start point to be amongst friends – Everton football club use ElliptiGo’s and they’ll be seeing us off.

Preparation before a trip has become a familiar process to me…  It goes a little bit like this

1. I have so much time I’ll get super organised and be ready to go well in advance.
2. Hmmm, time is getting shorter, I’d better start getting organised.
3. Ok there’s just days to go until I leave, I need to stop shuffling kit around and actually pack.

With very little time until we begin I’m currently in Stage 3!

It’s been a really good few weeks, I’ve loved getting to know Dave, my gotrek companion, better.  He is incredibly calm with a very positive attitude.   He has experience of expeditions and we’ve been able to work well together, sharing the process which can, at times, be daunting and difficult.  He clearly has a sense of humour too which, for me, is one of the most important qualities you can have in an expedition buddy.

My parent’s are delighted that during this trip, Dave and I be wearing the safest helmets in the world – Kranium Helmets. We met the designer, Ani Rao, at The Outdoors Show in January where he was exhibiting his helmets, that are made of cardboard!  He’s young and cool but mostly he’s super intelligent with a fantastic story and product.  After a serious cycling injury left him hospitalised he set about designing a helmet with woodpeckers in mind!  Replicating the structure that a woodpecker has between it’s beak and skull Ani has developed one of the safest helmets out there!

On just day two of our trip we’ll be heading into Derby and our stop over for the night is at my parents.  Home cooked food and my own bed….such a treat at the start of our journey!

Dave and I will be towing trailers behind our ElliptiGo’s with everything we need to be completely self sufficient.  However, we are welcoming the offer of beds for the night so if you happen to be on our route we’d hugely appreciate a place to stay… and shower!!

In my trailer I’ll definitely be taking my new Jetboil stove – I used it yesterday for the first time and love it.

We’re encouraging people to come and join us or just say hello during our trip, if you can meet us for a cup of tea or ride a section with us we’d be delighted to have you along.

We’ll be in Hyde Park London on Sunday 5th May between 3-5pm so if you fancy test ride or a look please come.  Then on Monday 6th May we’ll be leaving Clapham Common at 8am (tbc) to ride London – Brighton.

For details about our exact movements please keep a close eye on my facebook and twitter … and of course on The Go Trek website – which you can sign up to for updates which automatically enters you into prize draw for some fantastic prizes!

We are supporting the breast cancer charity Coppafeel and we’re asking people to donate just £3.00 to support us on our 3000 mile journey to help reach our £3000 target!

To donate click here.   Thank you!

Now… back to packing chaos!

Packing for The Go Trek!
Packing for The Go Trek!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eight days in America

It’s amazing how much you can do in eight days as proved by my recent trip to the States!

The purpose of the trip was to do a lecture tour with Summit Climb’s Dan Mazur to promote awareness and raise funds for the Mount Everest Foundation for Sustainable Development in Nepal (MEFSD)’s latest project, a new Sherpa Training School.  You can read more about it here in this article Katy Dartford wrote up for Trek & Mountain Magazine’s website.

Sherpa Training School

The lectures went brilliantly.  They were all very different and all thoroughly enjoyable.

We began north of San Francisco, in Santa Rosa at the Rock, Ice and Mountain Climber’s Club.  The venue couldn’t have been better – it was in a room that was part of a pizza restaurant and a delicious pizza was good preparation for the evening!  With no planned place to stay it was thanks to Maria Anna that we had beds for the night and an impromptu venue for the after talk party!

It’s always fun to meet the people you are talking to and hear their stories.  There was a great guy called Nathan Heald who we had the pleasure of meeting.  He was just visiting the US as he now lives in Cusco, where he is a climbing guide.  If you fancy some Latin America climbing, Nathan is your man www.skyhighandes.com.  We also met an inspirational couple in their 70’s who still run marathons and who will shortly be heading to Nepal to join a service trek.  I’d like to think I’ll be doing that kind of thing in my 70’s!

We had an early start as the next day we had some serious miles to cover to our next stop, Visalia; one of the largest agricultural regions in California.  I felt quite at home amongst all the farms, cattle and crops!  The Fox Theatre was the venue and what a venue!  It was huge and splendid.  Quite an intimidating stage to step out onto but I soon found my groove and really enjoyed that I was speaking with Dan and was able to listen to his full Everest story.  If you ever get the chance to hear Dan speak it’s a unique and great experience.

The Fox Theatre - view from the stage
The Fox Theatre – view from the stage

Our kind host at The Fox, Paul Fry, stayed up late with us and still got up early the next day to take us to see the giant Sequoia trees – an hours drive away in Sequoia National Park.  It was snowing in the park and the trees made me feel microscopic, they are so big and tall that your eyes can’t work out the perspective.

The giant Sequoia tress
The giant Sequoia tress

Our final stop and lecture was later that evening – another few hour’s drive South to CalTech Alpine Club at the University campus.  We were joined by a group of deaf climbers who have been achieving great things and who brought along sign language interpreters for the talk.  This was a new and enjoyable experience for me and I would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to Sonya and the interpreters.

Lecture at CalTech with an interpreter upfront with me
Lecture at CalTech with an interpreter upfront with me

Each lecture was a wonderful opportunity to tell people about the MEFSD and the Sherpa Training School.  We are very grateful to everybody who came and who donated generously to support the cause.  Thank you for being a part of our lecture tour.

It was also very useful to spread awareness and ask for people’s input and help on how to collect second hand climbing gear and transport it to Nepal from around the world (from the States is no problem as we have sponsored shipping from the US to Nepal) for the Sherpa’s Training School.  However, one of the most important messages we want to get across is to let people know that we want/need their old climbing gear (that is still safe and functional) to use at the School.  If anyone outside the States has any of the items in the list at the bottom of this blog post please send me a message (squash@squashfalconer.com) and I can let you know where to send it.  Also, if you have any ideas about how to centrally collect kit and ship it to the States we’d appreciate your ideas and thoughts on that too – thank you!

Before the lectures began, I had a few days in California, which were all jam packed!

Highlights included –

* A visit to Pelican’s headquarters where Sharon Ward, the Marketing Director, set up the first part of our meeting along the ocean front!  She said, “Men have meetings on the golf course and I think I’d like to start a movement that women have an equivalent ‘outside office’!”  It certainly has my vote.

Ocean front meeting with Sharon from Pelican
Ocean front meeting with Sharon from Pelican

After our ocean view meeting we heading to Pelican HQ where it literally all happens!  They make everything in their factory in CA.  I have been working with Peli for a few months and have been using their kit a lot.  It’s incredible to know and use kit and then see it being made.

With Keith inside the Pelican Factory
With Keith inside the Pelican Factory

Probably one of the most mind blowing processes I experienced was one of the Pelican protection cases being made with the help of a robot!  Impressive stuff..

As always, it’s a pleasure to meet the team behind the products I use, especially when they give you chocolate…thanks Jason, it was delicious!

* Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge; from the land, from the sky, from the water below and from on it!

Golden Gate Bridge from the sky
Golden Gate Bridge from the sky
On Golden Gate Bridge
On Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge from the water!
Golden Gate Bridge from the water!

* Eating Clam Chowder and following up with a hot chocolate at Ghirardelli’s. (Thank you Stacy!)

Clam Chowder
Clam Chowder
Ghirardelli's hot chocolate
Ghirardelli’s hot chocolate

* Meeting the GoPro team at their headquarters in Half Moon Bay.

At GoPro HQ with Pilar
At GoPro HQ with Pilar

 

I love the people that I work with and the people that I get to meet along the way. Putting the US trip together wasn’t an easy task and I wondered at the time if I was doing the right thing and if my focus was in the right place. I’m happy to conclude that it was a wonderful trip and recognise (yet again) that when you get out there and do stuff, stuff happens!

 

Below is a list of items we need for the Sherpa Training school (used equipment is fine and sherpas come in all sizes, from very small to very large):

▪    Plastic climbing boots
▪    One-sport-everest or other boots with built in gaiter
▪    Crampons
▪    Ice axes
▪    Helmets
▪    Harnesses
▪    Carabiners
▪    Descending/rapelling/abseiling/belaying devices
▪    Ascenders such as petzl/jumar/bd, etc
▪    Slings
▪    Ropes
▪    Jackets made of fleece/pile or goretex or down
▪    Trousers made of fleece/pile or goretex or down
▪    Rucksacks and backpacks
▪    Sleeping bags
▪    Warm hats
▪    Mittens and gloves made of wool/poly/fleece/pile/polar or goretex or down
▪    Sunglasses
▪    Baselayers made of  made of wool/poly/fleece/pile/polar
▪    Socks made of  made of wool/poly/fleece/pile/polar
▪    Trekking shoes
▪    Headlamps