Waking up over London

Moleskine entry: July 26th, 2009

Sam and I scored well on this flight.

Two seats back, in the middle of the plane, I spotted two empty rows of four. Heh. As soon as we were airborne and the seatbelt signs were switched off, we leapt to action and staked our claim on the free space. Nice.

I spent the entire flight stretched out and completely horizontal.

I also spent a long time in deep thought. Taking in the events of the last couple of days. Drifting in and out of sleep, dreaming of home.

See this is why I love flying: alone time, rest, thought and much relaxation. Hurtling through the sky, wrapped in 200 tonnes of metal at 600mph.

I am at peace.

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.

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… πŸ™‚

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.

Coming home from Namibia

Rejoining the ‘Notes from my Moleskine‘ series, we round up the final three pages from the first Lucozade Challenge: Sandboarding in Nambia.

—– Shofat, Manzoor, Sam, Me, Foyce and Suhel —–

Moleskine entry: July 12th, 2009

I’m home, at last…

We were all supposed to be back Saturday (today is Sunday), but early morning fog meant we couldn’t land in Walvis Bay and so we missed our connection. 24hrs in Windhoek, the Namibian capital, ensued. Forget the delay, the most hilarious thing I saw in those 24hrs was our pilot, Elsa, texting the control tower telling them she couldn’t see them

I digress, the important part is:

I am home.

______________________

Learnings & Memories

: Four kids from Brum can be all the company you’ll ever need for an extreme sports holiday to Africa.

: The stars. They still amaze me.

: A midnight meteor shower over the plains of Damaraland – breathtaking.

: Shofat walking (and subsequently falling) into the swimming pool in Serra Cafeme.

: Dries. Sandboarding. Brilliant.

: Must buy a circular polariser for the camera.

: Satphones can be incredibly useful and yet incredibly infuriating at the same time.

: Lions. Outside the tent.

: Quad-biking at dusk.

: Taking so many photos – a joy.

: Power! She needs more power Cap’n!

______________________

The winners for stage two have been drawn and the competition for stage three opens real soon. Between now and then however, I’ll be Cattle Ranching through Wyoming. I’ve never ridden a horse before, let’s see how that works out…

Before I close the book on stage one mind, I need to make sure I write something about Eric & Raymond.

These were the two guys that held our hands and showed us the way the whole time we were there in Namibia. Without them it would’ve a been very, very boring trip and probably quite rubbish too.

Gents, I tip my hat. Thank you, both of you. You made it all worthwhile.

Notes from Namibia

Moleskine entry: July 9th, 2009

I’ve never flown this far South before. Cape Town is 10hrs straight down. Damaraland, Namibia 2hrs back up again.

The stars are very different here.

Last night we slept out under the skies, in the middle of a half-million hectare concession, where people, wildlife and animals all co-exist together. Rhino, Springbok, Zebra, Giraffe, Leopard, Cheetah, Elephant and Ostrich. We’re told there’s no real danger, but we’re quiet all the same.

On the way out, Eric – our guide – remarks that the stripes of a Zebra are as unique as that of a human fingerprint.

“Zebras have human fingerprints?”…asks a not-really-listening Suhel.
“Yes Suhel, Zebras have human fingerprints.”

We laugh, uncontrollably.

Lions walked past through our camp, right past them. There are paw prints outside my door. I heard them late, out there in the dark, purring their deep, low grumble. Not quite a growl, not quite a roar but still… that sound.

A glimpse through the window revealed nothing. I could see the light from a distant toilet-tent knocking gently in the trees, but that is all. The moonlight, so bright out here in the middle of nowhere, shines down clearly, basking all in pale illumination.Β  But I see nothing.

Still, I hear them mumble.

6000 miles from home: Cape Town

Apologies if this is a little out of time, but – as I mentioned in my last post – that’s how things are going to roll around here for a bit, at least, when it comes to talking about my epic Summer of travel.

Cheers and as always, your comments and questions are welcome πŸ™‚

_______________________________

Moleskine entry: July 5th, 2009

All aboard...

Day one of my epic Summer of travelling so far has consisted of… well not very much really.
Admittedly, I’ve moved a certain distance, what with hurtling through the sky at 500mph and everything, but I’ve actually spent most of the time sleeping.

Night flights are my favourite kind.

There are six of us on this trip. Me, your official storyteller. Sam, my partner in crime and also my one and only constant over the next ten weeks… and of course our first four competition winners.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Lucozade Energy Challenges as a concept, let me tell you that it was a brand new one on me too. One winner, plus four of his/her friends, every other week taking a particular challenge for which a new skillset is required. Each activity is set in a different far-flung part of the world and they all require the chosen four to learn said skill quite quickly before partaking in a competition of some kind. All in the name the new Lucozade Energy tag-line ‘Do More’.

The full list of competition details can be seen on the Lucozade Energy Challenge website, meanwhile – let’s get back to our story shall we?

Me, as you know, got this gig just a couple of weeks back. Sam? The same. However, his role is different to mine in that he to be the group’s designated ‘Chaperone’ over the coming weeks and, judging by the first few hours, he’s going to be good very company indeed… πŸ™‚

Time to meet the winners of the first competition; Manzoor and his three friends, Shofat, Suhel and Foyce.

They’re a good bunch of lads. Football players from Brum would you believe, and they’re just a little bit excited.

Heh.

At the time of writing we’re about 10mins from touchdown in Cape Town, Shofat’s just woken up and we’re discussing the prospect of seeing some Black Rhinos over the next few days. You see, this particular challenge – Sandboarding in Namibia – isn’t all about the taking on the extreme sports of the Skeleton Coast, it also involves tracking down the aforementioned huge beasts as part of a desert safari.

What?

There’s got to be something to fill in the gaps between all the epic sandboarding, right?
Next stop: Namibia!