So today while I sit in the comfort of my apartment, checking my email, like most of you will / have done, spare a thought for two of my best friends Will and Jim Hardy who have started day one of the Marathon Des Sables aka the MdS 2012. 6 marathons in 6 days across the Sahara Desert. Oh, and you have to carry your things too, just in case the original challenge was too easy.
The twins are doing it in aid of the MS Society (multiple sclerosis), and are trying to reach £8,000 in sponsorship. So if you too think they are crazy, or it just makes you tired just thinking about running SIX marathons in that short of time in 35oC heat with a backpack, then please donate £5 to them, US/Canadian citizens can also donate.
Early next year I am off to China for several months. I hope to see a lot of the real China, as well as the usual tourist hot spots that I have wanted to see for ages, e.g. Terracotta Soldiers in Xi’an. Due to the packs of dogs that run wild at night in some Chinese towns, I have had to have the first of three rabies injections. It knocked me for six over Christmas. My Christmas Eve night was spent shivering in my bed whilst wearing full pyjamas, a hoodie with the hood up under my duvet with the heating on. My bones were physically freezing. I felt better after 24 hours, but alas I did not get to see Santa drop off my presents which usefully involved thermal gear for the trip.
Our first point of call is the Ice Festival in Harbin. This time of year Harbin is an AVERAGE -25oC. Yes that’s Average. However such freezing temperatures allow for one of the greatest shows on Earth. Apparently it has to be seen to be believed and I cannot wait to see it. They build an entire city out of ice. They use both traditional methods as well as laser and chainsaw cutting. It will be one of the first and biggest highlights of the trip. I just hope that feeling of cold from the rabies does not reappear once in Harbin.
My Chinese Visa is currently being processed which I found out is an expensive process for UK citizens looking for a multiple entry visa. With all the fees etc it is just under £100. And that is with going direct to the embassy and not through an agent. Either way it’s worth it as it will be an experience of a lifetime. I have been to Hong Kong and Macau before, but never the mainland. I imagine Hong Kong is a good way to gently get you used to China. It has all the Chinese signs and people but it also has the British influence so many people and businesses speak English. Same with Macau, however its Portuguese. Every road sign has Chinese and Portuguese. I know some Spanish so the wording is similar when written down. Being a casino based economy also means the place is setup for English visitors.
Rural China is a whole different ball game. You need to know some Chinese I have been told. Hopefully by going to the larger cities at first, will mean I can familiarise myself with the basics along with what I have learnt, which should stand me in good stead. At worst I have some good friends from Shanghai who may be receiving some phone calls.
Overall I cannot wait for China. It is such a huge and varied landscape with some of the most incredible natural landscapes in the world, a thing often overlooked. Yunnan providence looks to be a particular natural highlight. With just two more jabs to go it’s all getting very close and I can not wait to see what awaits me there.
Rolf Potts is the Author of the book Vagabonding and is a great promoter of the idea of travelling better rather than more. This week he is starting a trip around the world using NO baggage. Think you travel light with that 35 litre back pack? Rolf Potts takes this to a new level of travel lightly.
Rolf is doing this to “field-test for a more philosophical idea — that what we experience in life is more important than what we bring with us.” By having no bag it means he cannot use his cameraman to carry things for him, no “man bags”, and no borrowing items from his cameraman.
Rolf Potts runs a successful blog and being a writer he needs internet access across the globe while doing this, so he is using an iPhone and a small foldable bluetooth keyboard to help solve the laptop problem. With some clever apps he can scan documents, and have airline tickets on hand without having to carry them. His key travel item though, is his amazing jacket. A special travel jacket called ScotteVest it is ultra light weight, sleeves can come off and the whole jacket even folds into itself for carrying. However the key is its massive amount of discreet pockets. They are designed for multiple items of different sizes and dont bulk like most jackets. Surely a must for any traveller.
More Information on the ScotteVest Tropical Jacket
For more information about Rolf Potts and his way of thinking, and what he has done, check out his Do Lecture below:
Rolf Potts has reported from more than fifty countries for the likes of National Geographic Traveler, the New York Times
Magazine, Slate.com, Conde Nast Traveler, Outside, The Believer, The Guardian (U.K.), National Public Radio, and the Travel Channel.
This is a short inspirational video. Its a talk, again by Alastair Humphreys about how to find adventure wherever you are, and why you should and do it. I love the comparisons in the video between the “worldly” images of Monks etc. to some guy off Junction 14 on the M25. Great short video
Alastair Humphreys coined the idea of a “microadventure”, which is talks about in his Do Lecture. Its the idea of while you can’t always trek through Bhutan, you can have great adventures and good times with friends ANY weekend wherever you are in the world. This video shows what appears to be a great way of life. Very inspirational in the way its about just going and making the most of what you have. The video shows a very idealistic day paddling up the Pembrokeshire coast in search of a secluded beach to camp. Watching seals and dolphins, catching fish and crabs, cooking on a campfire and sleeping on the beach.
Music: Restless Feet – Danny and the Champions of the World
I first came across Alastair Humphreys from stumbling across the Do Lectures. The Do Lectures are basically a load of amazing people talking about great things they have done and what inspired them to do as such. This one by Alastair, who biked around the world for 4 years. He has also done many great, what he calls, “microadventures” like walking around the M25, and more recently Sea kayaking in Pembrokeshire. We both have met him, and he is a great guy. He has also completed the marathon des sables which my friend Will and his twin Jim are doing in 2012. I really like his ideas on taking a picture everyday, as it means you did something that was worth remembering. Also the idea of “when was the last time you did something new”.
Alastair has raced a yacht across the Atlantic Ocean and canoed 500 miles down the Yukon River as well as walking the length of the holy Kaveri river in India.
Alastair has published three books, with one more due by the end of 2009. (He has also written chapters for Lonely Planet’s ‘Flightless’ anthology, the Adventure Cycling Handbook, Stanorama and The Traveller’s Handbook. He ran the Marathon des Sables, finishing as one of the ten fastest Brits despite breaking his foot during the race. To fight off the wanderlust Alastair managed a sub-3-hour marathon, had a miserable time during the Original Mountain Marathon, the Devizes to Westminster 120-mile canoe marathon and another one during Tough Guy. Travelling round the World Cup in a camper van was much more fun.
After spending a year teaching 10-year-old boys in a school’s Special Needs department, Alastair is now training for the Bob Graham Round and preparing for SOUTH, the first unsupported return journey to the South Pole and the longest unsupported polar journey in history. In February 2009 he rowed to France with Major Phil Packer, a soldier paralysed in Iraq, as part of Phil’s attempt to raise £1million for Help for Heroes.