Being up in the Mountains

Moleskine entry: July 25th, 2009

It’s been kind of invigorating. Refreshing.

Healthy.

I’ve been up in the Big Horns trekking, riding and herding as part of challenge two of the Lucozade Energy Challenges, although (I’m certain now), this much you know. What you probably don’t know however is that the powers that be have gone ahead and equipped me with some rather spiffy kit.

Including, amongst others, a sat-phone.

This thing worked FINE in Namibia. In fact, the photo above was taken and uploaded on the spot in the middle of the Namibian desert, this place in fact.

However, for some unknown reason, in the good ol’ US of A, it failed. Nothing. Nada. My glorious sock-rockin’ sat-phone, was… useless.

Which meant in turn, I was non-contactable for four days.
Say it again. Four days.
Say it one more time, and this time say it with me – out loud: Four. Days.

‘Liberating’ doesn’t quite do it justice.

At one point, we were sat by a lake some 10,000ft up, the air was thin, the horses were thirsty and the winners were discussing going for a swim. The sky was clear, the water freezing and the surrounding landscape, breathtaking.

Just pausing – for a moment – to take in what I was experiencing.

Four days with no signal. Four days in the mountains. Riding horseback every day, we rode down from 8500ft on the last day, Friday, and it took five hours.

I couldn’t tell you the total of how far we travelled or for how long. All I know is every day we were saddled up by 10am and we only got out again for lunch and then again at the end of the day for dinner and rest. I never thought I’d enjoy it so much.

Incredible really, incredible.

I wrote every day, trying to keep a personal journal as well as an official, Lucozade one is no easy task. But when there’s nothing to distract you except maybe the odd passing moose, you’d be amazed how one can focus the mind.

Perspective is a wonderful thing… and the view from here, is amazing. I know what things are important to me now. Not that I didn’t know before I guess.

But as I said, being up here sure does focus the mind.

For Rob

One key thing that was an amazing constant throughout the Lucozade Challenges was that no matter what far flung corner of the world we found ourselves in, we always had an awesome, local guide to train us and look after us.

For the last challenge, yacht-racing in the Caribbean, we had this guy, Rob Brinkworth.

An Englishman through and through, Rob took great pride in telling us about the Stars and Stripes yacht we were to race, he’d been looking after the boats themselves for years. In the short time we spent on St Maarten, Rob educated us all in the ways of the 12-metre challenge, he made us feel confident enough to handle this multi-million dollar winner of a vessel and at the same time made sure that we respected his word and his skill as a fine seafaring yachtsman.

A fantastic teacher, I remember Rob expressing to us at the end of the week how much he had really enjoyed coaching us all in the science behind sailing and reminisced about his days as an instructor educating school teachers on how to sail, preparing them for a Summer of PGL (a UK institution set up for children to take part in activity courses, such as sailing). He had rediscovered his love of sharing knowledge and, as we left St Maarten at the end of the week, I sensed that maybe there might be change in his future.

Sadly, Rob died last week.

Struck down by an aggressive illness, his life was cut short before he could put any such plans into action.

I heard the news late yesterday afternoon. Al, one of the winners from the challenge, had stayed in touch with Rob after we left. After he told me I immediately started trawling through my files… The following video is put together from all the footage I took while under his tutelage.

Rob, this is for you mate:

While waiting for the video to export, I checked through my notes to clarify a few dates and I found this entry, the last one I made before we left the Caribbean –

Moleskine entry: September 16th, 2009

Race Day

“Later at the bar that evening, Rob tells us that today’s race was kind of a big deal for him. The night before he had called a meeting between our crew, the opposing crew and the race judge. They all agreed that the race today would be ‘for real’.
You see they race these boats day in and day out and could’ve quite easily made some decisions (that wouldn’t have been obvious to us), that meant they would’ve handed us the race. Rob, having trained us all week and seen how we respected the skill and the effort that went into it, insisted that this would be the case.

He told the rest of the staff that the race was to be exactly that.
No fudging it for anyone.

“Throw everything you’ve got at us.” he told them “Try and thrash us. If you do, it’ll be their fault. If you don’t, well then.. they’re awesome. Either way, these guys will not appreciate being handed the race and will know if you do…”

Wow. What a guy. I for one am very glad he called it like that because, come the finish line, yes we came second – a very close second in fact. But boy did we earn it.”

Good luck Rob, wherever you are.
Your friends, old and new, remember you well.

Wagon Wheel

I’ve been in Helsinki for the past 24hrs so excuse me while I dig around in my video archive for something that I haven’t published here before…

What I’m about to share with you isn’t specifically ‘new content’ exactly, however it is something actually quite special and I hope you enjoy it.

Meet Stewart Reed.

Stewart, believe it or not, is a genuine cowboy who lives and on a ranch out in the small town of Shell, Wyoming.

One night in July, while we were camping up in the mountains (and after we’d watched the Sun go down), we stayed up late drinking whisky, sharing jokes, telling tales and, eventually – after some cajoling from the group, Stewart fetched his guitar out from the pickup and started to play…

There, up in the mountains, in the long dark silence… a real, live cowboy…  singing.

It was magical.

This one, Wagon Wheel, is by far and away my favourite.
Give it 30 seconds or so before he gets going, after that – just enjoy…

My mate, Marmite

How do you feel about Marmite?

Me, I love it. In fact I could eat it with a SPOON.
Obviously, some people hate it. I mean REALLY hate it.

But what if, just imagine, you’d gone through your whole life without ever trying it. Ever.

Well, one morning, out in the middle of Damaraland, that’s exactly what we discovered Manzoor had done.

Something which, of course, we had to rectify…

It wouldn’t be a NaVloPoMo post without tipping you off about someone else’s efforts…
So why not go give one of Benny Crime’s videos a whirl.

You’ll never feel the same again…

😉

Windsocks and toilets

“Houston. We have a problem.”

It would seem that the 30-day video marathon that is NaVloPoMo has arrived slap, bang in the middle of the first decent writing stride I’ve had in donkeys.

This is largely in part thanks to the wealth of written content I have hidden away in my new best friend and travelling partner, my moleskine.

Alas, as video cannot be held inside its tender pages, the ‘tales from my moleskine‘ series may have to take a back seat for the time being.

We’ll pick it back up again in December. Promise.

If you’ve missed it all so far and fancy a dive, by all means, just click on the word moleskine and you’ll be magically transported. However, if instead you’d rather stick around and see what ocular treats I have lined up for you today, then please, make yourself comfy… We’re off to Africa.

The date is July 8th, we – the first batch of Lucozade Winners and I – had left Damaraland that morning and boarded our own private Cessna to fly up to a place called Haartmann Valley. From there on in, it’ll be a three hour drive to our next camp. Eesh.

It’s pretty remote, but we’re told it’s paradise.

This short video, put together soon after we arrived, hopefully gives you some kind of insight at just how remote ‘remote’ is when you’re in Africa.

Hat tip to @reyes who duly pointed out the base for this month’s shenanigans.

Sunrise over Wyoming

Moleskine entry: July 22nd, 2009

5am start.

Not because we have to be up anytime in particular…
…it’s just so beautiful up here at Sunrise.

Breakfast can’t go quick enough.

Today I am so eager to get back in the saddle again. I have to tell you, the first time I ever encountered a horse I had the most horrific allergic reaction, I was nearly sick. My eyes blew up, my breathing suffered, I was itching and scratching all over… It was horrible.

So to say I was apprehensive about this particular challenge might be somewhat of an understatement. But today? Up here at the Snowshoe Lodge, some 9000ft up in the Big Hornhorn mountains, I could not be more excited about seeing my horse again.

Marlena, the equine in question, is and I quote: “A real bitch”.

She bites, she doesn’t do as she’s told and if you don’t show her who’s boss, she’ll throw you around like there’s no tomorrow. Heh. We’re having fun, put it that way.

I digress.

Today we’re herding cattle properly. 220 of them. Younglings.
They’re fast and they don’t like horses much.

Our guide, Stewart yells: “Let’s move out!”

And I smile… 🙂

Additional notes, thoughts and sketches: July 23rd – 24th

Notes – July 23rd

– I saw a Moose today!
Stone horses, swimming in water
Shell Lake. 10,000ft up in the mountains and simply breathtaking
– Rocks, like old people

Notes – July 24th

White Creek Canyon
– Black Mountains
– Rattlesnakes
– Trapper Canyon
Devil’s Leap

We’re heading home tomorrow… it’s been a good trip.