Archive for January, 2012


16,000km and 29 months later, British Cyclists return to the UK

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Bikeabout London – Join us!

Bikeabout London | Liz & Chris in MongoliaTemperatures of 40°C in Malaysia and Australia, 4000m mountain passes in China, teaching English in a remote hill tribe village in Thailand, sand storms in the Gobi desert and a wedding engagement en route, have all been part of the adventure for Chris Leakey and Liz Wilton.

The couple flew from England to Auckland, New Zealand in September 2009 and started cycling back home, through Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Poland, Czech Republic, Germany and France.

Liz and Chris are celebrating the end of the journey with cycling events in Greenwich, London and Ambleside in Cumbria. Dubbed ‘Bikeabout London’ and ‘Bikeabout Ambleside’.

The couple hope the events will raise awareness of the charity Child’s Dream that they have been supporting throughout their trip.  Their aim is to raise £20,000 to build a school in Southeast Asia for underprivileged children.

At each event there will be a raffle and an auction to win prizes donated by some of their sponsors.  All proceeds go towards building  the school. Those wishing to make larger or additional donations can do so from the bikeabout website, or on the day.

Bikeabout London will take place  on Saturday 11th February 2012, starting in Gravesend and ending at The Gypsy Moth Pub in Greenwich.  You are invited to join Liz and Chris for the last few miles on your bike, to celebrate the success of their journey and welcome them home. The ride will end at the The Gypsy Moth Pub in Greenwich where there will be an opportunity to meet Chris and Liz, as well as joining their fundraising party during the afternoon.

Bikeabout Ambleside will finish in Ambleside on the 19th February 2012 times and details to be confirmed.

At each event Chris and Liz will be giving a short speech and there will be time to answer questions before the celebrating begins. To contact the couple before the events for interviews and for more details, please see our Bikeabout London web page.

mobile : 07736970101  |  email: hello@bikeabout.co.uk

Bikeabout London Information

Starting at Gravesend, Chris and Liz will be picking up the Sustrans cycle network on National Route 1. This is 90% traffic free and runs along the river, passing through Dartford, Erith, Woolwich and ending in Greenwich, a total of 24 miles.

Bikeabout London Route map

You can join the ride at any point, and you can ride as far as you wish. Meeting points will be near rail stations, at the following locations:

  • 9.45am Baltic Wharf, Gravesend (24 miles to Greenwich)
  • 11am The Hufflers Arms, Hythe Rd, Dartford (16 miles to Greenwich)
  • 11.50am Riverside Gardens, Erith (10 miles to Greenwich)
  • 12.30pm Pond Wharf, Woolwich  (4 miles to Greenwich)
  • 1pm The Gypsy Moth, Greenwich!

See our website for more detailed information and maps of the locations.

The Gypsy Moth, GreenwichThe Gypsy Moth Pub

www.thegipsymothgreenwich.co.uk/

60 Greenwich Church Street, Greenwich, London, SE10 9BL.

Nearest Underground tube stations are: Cutty Sark or Greenwich. Nearest train station is: Maize Hill. If you are driving, there is an NCP carp park off Romney Road, A206, near the University.

To contact Liz and Chris about 11th or 19th February 2012, please email: hello@bikeabout.co.uk or call Liz on 07736 970101.

Join Bikeabout London and Bikeabout Ambleside.

Bring your friends and family!

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Poland to Czech Republic

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Leaving my river camp site I set off towards the Czech Republic.  It was a cold and wet day, I had run out of gas for my stove the night before so no water for the thermos.  On the bright side it meant I had a good excuse to buy a coffee, sit inside in a dry warm place rather than shelter under a tree, drinking fast enough that my fingers don’t freeze, slow enough that I felt like I had actually had a break.

The cold is a good motivator to keep moving, I made good progress and pulled off the main road only a few kms away from the Czech Republic into a conveniently situated woodland by the end of the day. Crossing into the Czech Republic was going to be, in theory, my first no hassle border of the trip, no passports checks, nothing.  I still half expected there to be something but by 10 am i was in the Czech Republic trying to change my Polish money.  Next to the bank was a camping shop that sold gas, so i was set, it felt strange to be in a new country and hardly noticing the difference.

That evening i found a small patch of grass at the edge of a field large enough to pitch my tent.  I cooked up a big feast and studied my new map.  I was keen to start increasing the distance i was cycling each day. In my mind there were two ways i could do this, eat more and cycle longer.  Cycling longer meant cycling at night or getting up early, the latter is not something i am fond off, but it made more sense.  As i lay in my sleeping bag i mentally prepared for an early start and thanked the kind people at the petrol station that had filled my water bladder and given me 2 Euros, another act of random kindness.

2012-01-10 001

My early start was great, i had a long playlist prepared on the iPod, it was a dry day and i seemed to be flying along despite the head wind.  By lunch i was really hungry and I had to stock up on food. I found a supermarket and spent far too long in the warm exploring all the exciting new foods.  With a full belly i set off again, as the day progressed, the snow in the fields and footpaths that surrounded me increased. Before i knew it there were piles of snow by the side of the road and the sky started producing more of it.  It fell to the ground with such grace that it made me smile.

Bike ouside Czech supermarket

Late afternoon I rested in a supermarket car park before continuing, the road had started to climb and as i cycled i contemplated my decision to continue.  I had no idea what was ahead of me, and as i got higher the snow by the side of the road got higher too.  I stopped to see how deep it was.  I climbed over the crash barrier that was buried under the snow and fell waist deep into the white stuff.  I thrashed through the snow a little further towards the trees, it didn’t get any better.  I made my way back to the bike and continued on cycling.  The light slowly faded and i contemplated what to do.  I was not in any danger, i was not scared just intrigued, where was i going to sleep tonight, what is around the next corner.  I cycled on until i found a layby that had been cleared by the snow plough.  The snow between the trees was just as deep, but i could pack it down and make a big enough platform for the tent.  I set about transporting the bike and panniers separately down to the trees and the slow task of creating a level platform for the night.  Two hours later i was finally inside the tent and very pleased with the results, although i probably could have built a snow cave during this time! Next time, I said, next time.

Winter cycling camping site

As I loaded up the bike the next morning, a group of cross country skiers were preparing to set off down the track that i had camped next to in the forest.  After probably less than an hour of cycling i reached the summit of the small pass.  The road was covered in snow and the plough was going up and down trying to clear it all.  More people were out on skis.  I started the descent, slowly at first, picking up speed as my confidence grew.  I started thinking about a hotel again, my legs were tired, i was tired and my socks and shoes were wet from all the snow.  I played this over and over again in my head, don’t be a wimp, keep going. Relaxing for a night in a hotel would be good for you, a hot shower, a soft bed.  By the time i got to the bottom of the hill and arrived in the town called Sumperk i was still undecided.  The first set of signs that greeted me were all on one post pointing to about 5 different hotels.  One said the sport hotel,  cycling is a sport i said, lets go there.  15 minutes later i was set up in my hotel room enjoying the piping hot water from the shower.

Winter cycle camping

Hotels are a dangerous thing, especially in the winter, i found enough reasons to stay a few nights before setting off again.  Winter Cycling Czech

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Krakow to Auschwitz

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

This blog contains details and pictures related to Auschwitz, it might not be suitable for some people or children.  If you are under 14 please get your parent, guardian or teacher to read this first to make sure they are happy for you to read and watch.

Having had a good rest over new year I was ready to get going again.  Leaving Krakow I made the silly mistake of not mapping a good route out of town.  I find that cities tend to act as a giant maze and without a detailed map, ending up on the wrong road is easy.  My large scale map was next to useless and the road signs were not helping either.  I stopped by a junction and leaned the bike against a post to try and get my bearings.  A women came up to me and started talking, feeling rather sheepish, at my lack of comprehension, I managed to explain that i did not speak any Ukrainian, she did not speak any English.  Still, I managed to ask her if this road was the way I wanted to go.  She conveyed that she did not know but pointed to a small fast food stand.  She said that she would mind my bike, I trusted her.  The girl at the fast food stand spoke great English and assured me that this was the right way keep going turn right at the next crossroads, then keep going,  great. I returned to the smiling woman who was looking after my bike.  She delved into one of her shopping bags and brought out a large piece of flat bread with a crushed apple topping, sort of like an apple pie pizza.  I thanked her for the wonderful gift and she smiled and waved me goodbye.  A few hours later and it was getting dark, I was on the right road now for sure, the road signs were matching up things were good.  The hard part was over, leaving the warm cosy hostel and the maze of city streets.  I found a small woodland and set up camp.

The next day was spent wondering why all the shops were closed, it turned out the 6th is Epiphany and a public holiday, it is a continues to amaze me how little I know.  Fortunately I had plenty of food so all I had to do was get to the town of Oswiecim for a visit to Auschwitz. Here are the remains of one of the Nazi death camps from the second world war.  There are plenty of intact buildings now serving as Museums, as well as the remains of other buildings that were destroyed.

The death camps had one purpose: to kill people, mainly Jews.  It is hard to describe a visit to a place like this, it’s not like going to a Museum where you can come out and say ‘wow that was great, I really enjoyed that’.  The mood of the group that I toured with was sombre throughout and I left with a strange feeling.  Despite this, it is worth visiting, just to know that this happened,  the museum severs to educate people as to what happened so that we will never forget. Over 1.3 million people were killed here whilst the death camp was operational.

My words will not do this any justice but I hope that these pictures try to.

More information can be found with the links below, there is a camping site 700m from Auschwitz, follow the signs from the Auschwitz Museum car park.  It is only open during the summer, i found a free camping spot nearby.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auschwitz_concentration_camp

http://en.auschwitz.org/m/

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Why kids in SE Asia need your support

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Why we are supporting Child’s Dream…

We both care about children – Chris works with vulnerable young people and children in crisis, Liz volunteered for a charity called Home Start which supports families with children under 5.  So we are both passionate about supporting children and their families, to give them the confidence, knowledge and belief that they can improve their situation or make changes in their lives.

Sustainability

We both want to work with a charity whose projects are sustainable… ‘give a man a fish and he can feed his family for a day, teach a man to fish and he can feed his family for a lifetime’. Child’s Dream goes one step further than that and works with the communities to find out what they need…is fishing the best option? Do you even want to fish? The projects provide infrastructure, community development and resources, building both sustainable school structures and lasting relationships with the villagers. The communities are actively involved and ultimately have ownership of the projects, with a vested interest in their survival.

Risks to children in Southeast Asia

In the UK we are very aware of the suffering of children in Africa and it’s easy to forget that there are other children in the world who live in equal poverty. South East Asia is one of the poorest places for a child to grow up. The risks children face include child trafficking, being force into the sex industry, forced resettlement or displacement, as well as a lack of basic healthcare and clean water, often living in families surviving on just a few dollars a day.

Despite the vast array of 24hr news channels and newspapers online, there is very limited coverage or reportage about this region and the lives of the people who live here. No one hears much about the lives of children living in Thailand, Loas, Cambodia, Burma or Vietnam. No one tells their stories.

Globalisation – cheap goods and cheap labour

Here in the UK we enjoy buying cheap products from linen shirts to DVD players that cost just £30, we expect to eat a wide variety of food all year round from king prawns to mangos.  What we forget or don’t know is that many of the foods and products that we want, come from South East Asia and the people who grow, produce and manufacture these things for the west, live in poverty. There is a human cost, if not a retail cost!

Whilst globalisation has benefited some, it has also led to a change in the way of life for many. With increased urbanisation and industrial development, people are under pressure to go to the cities to earn more money, moving away from their families and working and living under harsh conditions. As few are very well educated, the only option open to them is factory work, manufacturing items or processing food mostly for export. Even the governments in this region focus on the development of natural resources for export, not on the development of communities.

Surely we can’t just keep taking? Surely it’s time to give something back?

Education and a future

Education is key to the children in this region. Whilst some may consider the idea of Europeans arriving in countries and prescribing education as the answer, as arrogant or may argue that it undermines their way of life – subsistence farming and agriculture – we don’t believe this to be true or fair. Their way of life has already been undermined and changed forever by the impact of globalisation and urbanisation, by our demand for cheap goods and cheap labour, and their governments’ policies on trade and export. If farming is no longer a long term option, then education will give children a chance to learn skills and equip them with knowledge to understand the world they are growing up in. Education gives people choices, the children may have little in terms money, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have aspirations to grow up and do something interesting with their lives, or at the very least earn enough money to be able to support their families.

Education and a school environment also provides stability, where perhaps there is little elsewhere in their lives. It gives children self-esteem and self-belief, empowering them to learn and grow with confidence. School isn’t just about learning, it is a place to find  out who you are and what you can do, you may be musical or artistic, or good at sport, good with other children; a place where people listen to you and share with you.  Why should we deny any child access to education, everyone deserves the choice and the chance to become who they really are.

Child’s Dream are giving children and their families that choice.

To make a donation please visit:  http://childsdream.org/donate/ and let us know too so we can add you to our grand total.  We really value your support, thanks!

Why we are supporting Child’s Dream…

We both care about children – Chris works with vulnerable young people and children in crisis, Liz volunteers for a charity called Home Start which supports families with children under 5. So we are both passionate about supporting children and their families, to give them the confidence, knowledge and belief that they can improve their situation or make changes in their lives.

Sustainability

We both want to work with a charity whose projects are sustainable… ‘give a man a fish and he can feed his family for a day, teach a man to fish and he can feed his family for a lifetime’. Child’s Dream goes one step further than that and works with the communities to find out what they need…is fishing the best option? Do you even want to fish? The projects provide infrastructure, community development and resources, building both sustainable school structures and lasting relationships with the villagers. The communities are actively involved and ultimately have ownership of the projects, with a vested interest in their survival.

Risks to children in Southeast Asia

In the UK we are very aware of the suffering of children in Africa and it’s easy to forget that there are other children in the world who live in equal poverty. South East Asia is one of the poorest places for a child to grow up. The risks children face include child trafficking, being force into the sex industry, forced resettlement or displacement, as well as a lack of basic healthcare and clean water, often living in families surviving on just a few dollars a day.

Despite the vast array of 24hr news channels and newspapers online, there is very limited coverage or reportage about this region and the lives of the people who live here. No one hears much about the lives of children living in Thailand, Loas, Cambodia, Burma or Vietnam. No one tells their stories.

Globalisation – cheap goods and cheap labour

Here in the UK we enjoy buying cheap products from linen shirts to DVD players that cost just £30, we expect to eat a wide variety of food all year round from king prawns to mangos.  What we forget or don’t know is that many of the foods and products that we want, come from South East Asia and the people who grow, produce and manufacture these things for the west, live in poverty. There is a human cost, if not a retail cost!

Whilst globalisation has benefited some, it has also led to a change in the way of life for many. With increased urbanisation and industrial development, people are under pressure to go to the cities to earn more money, moving away from their families and working and living under harsh conditions. As few are very well educated, the only option open to them is factory work, manufacturing items or processing food mostly for export. Even the governments in this region focus on the development of natural resources for export, not on the development of communities.

Surely we can’t just keep taking? Surely it’s time to give something back?

Education and a future

Education is key to the children in this region. Whilst some may consider the idea of Europeans arriving in countries and prescribing education as the answer, as arrogant or may argue that it undermines their way of life – subsistence farming and agriculture – we don’t believe this to be true or fair. Their way of life has already been undermined and changed forever by the impact of globalisation and urbanisation, by our demand for cheap goods and cheap labour, and their governments’ policies on trade and export. If farming is no longer a long term option, then education will give children a chance to learn skills and equip them with knowledge to understand the world they are growing up in. Education gives people choices, the children may have little in terms money, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have aspirations to grow up and do something interesting with their lives, or at the very least earn enough money to be able to support their families.

Education and a school environment also provides stability, where perhaps there is little elsewhere in their lives. It gives children self-esteem and self-belief, empowering them to learn and grow with confidence. School isn’t just about learning, it is a place to find  out who you are and what you can do, you may be musical or artistic, or good at sport, good with other children; a place where people listen to you and share with you.  Why should we deny any child access to education, everyone deserves the choice and the chance to become who they really are.

Child’s Dream are giving children and their families that choice.

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What is Adventure?

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

This question has come up a lot in my internet world recentl,y so I thought I would have a go at tying to define it. I am not 100% happy with what I have written, I would like to try and produced a bit more of a polished answer, but if I did that, this would probably be another draft that would never see the light of day!

I encourage you to comment and critique this, tell me what you think!

One of my favourite definitions of adventure is ‘a journey with an unknown outcome’. Now some might say that this is a little broad and that every day has uncertainty to some degree and as a result every day could be classed as an adventure. Well I would agree with this. I think what separates adventure from every day life is the amount of uncertainty or change we can expect and our state of mind.

Uncertainty and change will often lead to feelings such as fear or excitement. Depending on our state of mind we will either; strive to explore these feelings to see what the outcome may be, or strive to limit the uncertainty by staying in our often unconsciously, self created safe environments where change is rare or minimal.

Our state of mind is affected by just about everything you can think of. Our upbringing, culture, experiences in life, education, the stream of ideas from books, films, advertising, TV, radio and internet, what you had for breakfast, the weather, the book you read on the train to work, the film you watched 10 years ago, how someone smiled at you on the bus. Everything.

So depending on our sate of mind, we will react to the change or uncertainty by exploring or limiting.

I believe in balance, so a combination of limiting and exploring is important to a balanced life. The amount of exploring or limiting each of us do or need varies. We are all unique individuals so what is good for me, might not be good for you. This is why some of us are happy and balanced with a small amount of exploring, while others need lots of it.

The more exploring you do, the bigger your safe environment becomes so you need to continually push the boundaries to continue to explore and have and adventure. Unless that is, you have a bad experience, often called misadventure, that could result in you retreating back into the middle of your safe environment. However I really do believe that always staying in your safe environment is bad, and that a little adventure is good for you.

No adventure in our lives, can lead to an almost constant sate of certainty, where our feelings of xxxxxx are kept very close to a central point. As time progresses this can lead to an increasing fear of the unknown and possible depression. Why am I here, what is my purpose?

Don’t panic you don’t have to go and climb Everest to have an adventure, as we are individuals and adventure to one person is normal to another.

Adventures come in all shapes and sizes and are not limited to extreme outdoor activities. Going to a restaurant and trying something that you have never had before, is a food adventure. Talking to that person you like could result in a new friendship. Anything that takes you slightly out of your safe zone and could lead to something different or new, is an adventure.

You might find that the experience was not be good, but that does not matter, we can learn from this. Equally the experience might be great and leave you with a good feeling. I firmly remember being told to try a kiwi fruit aged 6 and that it was nice. The strange looking fruit appeared disgusting to me, but when I actually tasted it, I was pleasantly surprised, it was yummy.

My main source of adventure is outdoor based adventure. Currently I am cycle touring so I know I am going to get up and cycle but I have no idea who I am going to meet, what I will see, what food I will find to eat and where I will sleep. Every day has some form of adventure for me. Yes sometimes it can get a bit too much but that’s when I need a break, I find a hostel and sit still for a while.

Whatever your day to day life is, I believe that finding the right balance between adventure and non-adventure is an important part of being human. But I would say that one bigepic adventure could provide you with enough adventure to last a life time, it depends on the individual.

Aside from outdoor adventure I find social adventures fascinating, and often harder than outdoor adventures, more on that another time perhaps. I could go on, try and categorise types and styles of adventures but I think that might lose the essence of what I am try to say here.

My challenge for you is to dream of one outdoor adventure.

Match your adventure to your experience, don’t do something you are not skilled to do, I don’t want to be responsible for injury or death. Keep it simple, an afternoon, a weekend, plan a cycle ride with your kids or parents somewhere new. Go and see how many types of insects you can find in the garden, climb a tree, do that thing you always thought about doing but never got round to. Do something.

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