Category Archives: Inspiring People

Inspiring People: Scott Butler – journey to Elbrus

In this interview I catch up with firefighter and British human powered adventurer Scott Butler, to hear about his latest expedition to climb Mt Elbrus, the highest mountain in Russia and the continent of Europe.  His climb has an interesting twist as he is not starting at the base of the mountain but from his home in the UK, some 2550 miles away!

[Axe]  Hi Scott, thanks for taking the time to talk.  Can you tell us about your current expedition “Journey to Mt Elbrus”.

[Scott]  Hi Axe, thanks for asking me! The Journey can be broken down into three stages – firstly the cycle which was a 2000 mile unsupported, fully loaded solo journey from the UK to the west coast of the Black Sea and the port of Burgas in Bulgaria.  Secondly I aim to do a solo, unsupported, row 750 miles across the Black Sea to the port of Batumi in Georgia.  Stage three involves the title of the trek – climbing Mt Elbrus just inside Russia which is the highest peak in Europe at 5642m and one of the seven summits (the seven summits are the highest mountains on each of the seven continents).

[Axe]  What gave you the idea to attempt this journey?

[Scott]  It all started with just the simple thought of “what next?!”  I was just looking for my next challenge and climbing a mountain seemed like the next thing to do.  From there I figured why fly all the way there?  That body of water could be interesting to cross somehow… and it all just fell into place!

[Axe] In 2015 you set-off and had some bad luck, can you give us an overview of what happened?

[Scott]  Wow!  Yeah, it seemed if it could go wrong it would! I started with a failure of my sat nav and so from day two in France I was already off my planned route and trying to navigate by map and by phone.  This is very time consuming and wasn’t helped when my phone gave up the ghost!  Add to that broken spokes and punctured tyres, 40 degree heat and then the worst news.  My car that was towing my boat; kindly being driven by friends Tim and Jason, blew its turbo 15 minutes into France!!  Sadly, the car is still in France and not working and all attempts as getting the boat to Bulgaria never worked out despite valiant efforts by many.

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[Axe] On a scale of 1 – 10 how disappointed were you when you when you realised you could not continue in 2015 and would need to postpone?  Did you ever feel like giving up all together?

[Scott]  Disappointed… yeah, that’s one way of describing it! I felt as though I had failed and let people down if I’m honest. I was lucky in one way in that I had the rest of the cycle to focus on, and tell myself that just the ride on its own was no mean feat. If 10 is the worst, the I’d say 8 or 9 at the time, but the support and well wishes of my followers helped me get through that. Giving up altogether was never an option!

[Axe]  Has this journey been attempted before?  If not – does being a ‘first’ make it more of an attraction to you?

[Scott]  People have been cycling across Europe for decades and Elbrus has no doubt been climbed by thousands, but nobody has ever rowed across the Black Sea before so a World record is in the offing!  I didn’t know this until I’d set my mind on this challenge so it wasn’t an incentive but certainly became a huge focus of the journey.

[Axe] What were the highlights of the 2015 stage?

[Scott]  Austria was undoubtedly a huge highlight.  The scenery along the Danube was breathtaking and camping literally meters away from the riverbank in a stunning valley was one of those moments where you think “It’s places like this that are why I do these things”. The Danube in general was a highlight- especially as I never planned to ride it!  With the navigation problems an Englishman living in Germany that I bumped into suggested that I take the Danube as it was well signposted.  It wasn’t straight but I could just knuckle down and it enabled me to knockout 140 mile days in the saddle.

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But more than the scenery it was experiencing countries like Serbia where you wouldn’t necessarily visit.  The further East I got the more friendly people became.  That’s not to say I didn’t meet wonderfully kind people in the West, far from it!  But I think the further East you get, the less cyclists there are and maybe people appreciate how far you’ve come to be there in that moment. Honking horns, people waving, thumbs up as they pass, being given free food and drink in exchange for photos with me, picking me up when stranded with a busted bike in Hungary when looking for bush to camp behind… it really was wonderful.

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Not forgetting the other cyclists that I met! People from all over the world, heading in each direction, with different aims and daily mileage, but all out there searching for something.  Brilliant.

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[Axe]  I understand you took a ferry across the English Channel, which obviously is not human power, did you ever consider human powered options for this portion and how important or non-important was it to you to make the trip as human powered as possible?

[Scott] As I mentioned before, the journey really only began as a jaunt up a mountain and slowly developed into the trip it became.  The idea that I would make my way by human power was something that ‘just happened’.  I did take a ferry over the channel –  I looked into kayaking the channel but it proved to be too costly!  I never made too much of it being all human powered and although there was some disappointment at having to take a ferry, ultimately I felt that I was covering enough miles by my own power!  The problems with the boat and the extra cost ultimately made up my mind.  Once this is competed and I have a few thing under my belt then ‘going the whole hog’ might be on the agenda!

[Axe]  What were your biggest fears before you started the journey and how how did you manage these? 

[Scott]  Without being big headed, I didn’t have any fears.  At least I didn’t allow myself to acknowledge any fears!

[Axe] Whats your biggest fear and challenge going into Stage 2 and 3?

[Scott]  Again, no real fears, although, and you’ll laugh at this; my boat sinking!?  Since I discovered that the boat I had bought was rotten inside, I’d spent all my time repairing something I had no knowledge of.  With such tight time constraints I never managed to get the boat into the water to see if it floated!!  People were incredulous that I was heading onto the Black sea without seeing if my repairs were seaworthy and in hindsight this was quiet irresponsible, but I was confident!  At least now I get to test it in some actual water!

[Axe] What is your budget for this expedition? (if you don’t mind me asking!)
[Scott] A budget is a funny thing. It makes you think, naturally, of money. But in reality, certainly in my case, it meant ‘time’ much more than it did money. We all lead such busy lives with so many commitments that getting time away (and to train!) to pursue these sometimes perceived crazy pursuits can be difficult. I’m very lucky that my employers allowed me to:
A. save some holiday from the previous year and
B. the shift pattern that I work as a firefighter allows for larger chunks to be taken off.
The two different budgets will of course intermingle if you aren’t as lucky as I have been as you may need to get the financial backing to cover unpaid leave for example.  For me that was the toughest part: getting sponsors. I did secure some but ultimately I have backed the majority of this adventure. Now I’m doing it ‘budget’ style, certainly in regards to the cost of the boat, and if I’m honest I’m waaaay too slapdash to keep proper track of my expenditure. Once I’m ‘in’ I’m ‘in’ and what it cost is what it costs, using my credit card and dealing with it another day. With the problems I had with the boat and the car and false dawns of restarting thanks to the garage in France (whole ‘nother story) my costs went up. But loosely 8k for the boat, £1000 for tow bar and trailer service, £800 for the bike and equipment, mountain guide, pass and visas etc £2500…. around £15k should have covered it all… but bear in mind as long as I don’t sink or trash the boat there is always a second hand market for ocean rowing boats and it will always be an asset.
If you want it enough it can be done!

 

[Axe]  Please tell us some more about your boat

[Scott]  Pacific Pete is a 23ft 1997 Woodvale class plywood ocean rowing boat.  It has crossed the Atlantic 5 times and was last owned by Geoff Allum who, along with his cousin rowed the Atlantic in 1971!! Geoff was a huge help and inspiration and I only hope I can justify his decision to sell it to me!  By today’s standards it is old fashioned and heavy- but I like that about it!  As you well know yourself Grant, this isn’t a cheap thing to undertake and Pete was in my price bracket.  It was unfortunate that it turned out to need so much work, but neither Geoff nor I were to have known.  Finally, it’s name.  I’m honoured to carry the name Pacific Pete.  Peter bird was the first man to row solo across the Pacific Ocean and he was a great friend of Geoff’s.  Peter was sadly lost at sea on a further attempt at the pacific.  It’s an honour to own and to be rowing such a legendary boat and one with such a legendary name attached.

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[Axe]  How much training, planning and preparation did you and are you doing for this expedition?

[Scott]  Training wise I did at least a 10k row every day on the rowing machine, but usually 2 hour stints – sometimes 2 sets of 2 hrs and sometimes a 4 hour stint (mind numbing!).  I’d also fit in weight training and running.  Couple that with evening stints on the exercise bike at work and 50 to 80 mile bike rides.  The planning was relatively simple, but the logistics and fundraising/sponsor seeking was hugely time consuming and to be honest with you quite demoralising!  I’m no ‘blagger’!  All in I took around 18 months to bring it all together… which made the last minute rush with the boat repairs quite galling!

[Axe]  What are the top three lessons you have learnt from attempting this expedition? In hindsight would you do it again?

[Scott]  Would I do it again?  Absolutely!  As soon as I got home I missed the ever changing scenery, the never knowing where my next meal was coming from or where I was going to sleep that night, meeting new and interesting people and challenging myself every single day.

Lessons?  Hmmm… No matter how demanding my thirst or how pushed for time, you’ve got to eat.  I’m well aware of the importance of nutrition and in my opinion I follow a diet that fits my training needs, but this seemed to go out the window when on my travels!  Take spare spokes and… Bring a spare car!?!

[Axe] How can people follow your progress when you set-off again?

My website www.journeytoelbrus.com has a map linked to my GPS Spot system and I update my facebook page www.facebook.com/journeytoelbrus – which proved to be the greatest tool on my travels to keep people involved with little videos. Over 1500 people watched me run into the Black Sea!

This interview features in the Inspiring People section of my website.  Not ‘inspiring’ in terms of making billions of dollars from raping the planet and the earth’s resources, but tales from ordinary people who do extraordinary things, who get out and make positive impacts, who send positive messages through the way they live their lives.  We all have a part to play in our future.  I am very excited to share these stories with you and if at least one of them can touch and inspire you to make positive changes then I will be very happy!

 

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Inspiring People: Sandy Robson and the art of Spelunking and She Wee’s

For the past seven days, my wife Stephanie and I have had the pleasure of hosting a lady who is retracing the steps of a chap named Oskar Speck.  Oskar happens to be this this dead German guy who in the 1930’s made perhaps one of the greatest kayaking voyages of all time. After being made redundant during a depression, Oskar decided to leave Germany, not by traditional modes of transport, but in a folding kayak with a mission to ‘see the world’.

Seven years later, this remarkable man finally ended his journey by paddling onto dry land land in the north of Australia having traveled some 50,000 km in his kayak all the way from Germany. Bearing in mind these were days long before GPS Navigation, mobile phone coverage and Google Earth mapping existed, coupled with the fact that Oscar himself could not even swim, meant it was one hell of an adventure with some massive challenges to overcome along the way.  Far from the warm Aussie reception that may be expected upon completion of such a journey – Oscar did not apparently have the gift of choosing the best timing and arrived in 1939, just as World War II kicked off.  Being of German stock, he was immediately locked up for the duration of the war!

Fast forward some 70+ years and Australian woman Sandy Robson decided to set out on her own journey to see the world. Sandy is retracing Oscar’s epic trip and set-off in 2011 from Ulm in Germany.  After arriving in Singapore on Friday 17 April, 2015 at 2:20PM she has paddled around 12,000km.  Due to political and safety concerns in certain area’s including Syria, Iran and Pakistan she has had to skip certain portions, none-the-less hers is a remarkable journey in it’s own right.

Sandy enters Singapore through Raffles Marina Yacht Club in April 2015.

Sandy enters Singapore through Raffles Marina Yacht Club in April 2015.

I first came across Sandy, whilst researching information on my upcoming human powered expedition (details to come later) on the internet.  Noticing her route was passing through Singapore I reached out to her through that wonderful communications system Facebook (another thing Oskar Speak had to do without), and offered her my assistance as she paddled her South East Asian leg.  Since that time in late 2014, I have assisted Sandy with my network of contacts in Bangladesh (thank you Shahin and Tasnuva), Singapore and Indonesia (Thank you Pak Budi) with security permissions, permits, press, immigration, equipment storage, speaking engagements, accommodation and the many other logistical and bureaucratic arrangements that go into journeys like this which cross multitudes of international borders.

Much has been written about Oscar and Sandy’s journey in various press, so I thought this post would focus on one or two things that you will never read in the newspaper or see on the television, a brief peek at  the behind the scenes life of Sandy.

One of the questions that many people want to ask but often are too polite is – how do you go to the toilet when paddling your kayak for 8 – 10 hours a day, often without coming into shore?  Sandy shared her secret to this last night as we sat around having our final meal, and with her permission she agreed to me sharing it with you on this post.

Sitting inside a wobbly kayak a few kilometres off the shoreline in strong winds and choppy sea’s is not an ideal place to try to take a pee.  For a man – it is more straight forward  as you can see from this short video clip I took from my kayak in the middle of the Cook Strait in New Zealand.  Being a lady is not so easy however, Sandy’s system is to use a small plastic funnel called a She Wee.  The She Wee directs the pee into a small bottle also held in the cockpit which is then emptied over the side at the end of the job.  A quick rinse of the She Wee in the sea water and everyone is happy and onwards to Australia Sandy goes!  Attached below you can see a picture of the She Wee, and also Stephanie my wife’s good fortune to be given a first hand look at Sandy’s personal She Wee just as she finished her dinner.

Close up of the 'She Wee'

Close up of the ‘She Wee’

Look at the size of that!  Sandy Robson showing off her She Wee to Stephanie Rawlinson.

Look at the size of that! Sandy Robson showing off her She Wee to Stephanie Rawlinson

That answers the peeing question. What then happens if you need to do number 1’s?  The big one? Drop the boys off the pool?  Give birth to an alien? (Or whatever term you use in your particular country for taking a dump)    Well Sandy introduced me to an entirely new concept here called ‘Spelunking’.  If you look up Spelunking in a dictionary you may see it referred to as the sport of caving or potholing.  Sandys definition of Spelunking refers to a cave of a different nature and she patiently explained to me that Spelunking in kayaking terms is the art of taking a crap in the water whilst one is swimming.  Sandy also explained that this is normally an emergency measure and she normally plans things out so she is on dry land when she needs to answer this call of nature.

This morning as 7:20AM my trusty climbing partner Alan Silva and myself waved goodbye to Sandy from Tanjung Beach on Sentosa Island here in Singapore.  As Sandy waved back to us and paddled off on her journey south towards Batam Island, Indonesia, a tinge of sadness swept over me.  Sitting in her little red kayak, she looked so small compared to the open ocean, the massive ships, the strong currents and thousands of kilometres of journey I know lay in wait for her.  I felt honoured to have been a tiny part of her remarkable expedition.  To see first hand, how hard this petite, fiercely independent,  48 year old Australian lady (with a complete hip replacement) works, day in/day out, to make her dream into a reality.  Sandy would be awake all hours of the night, working away in our tiny spare bedroom, cleaning and sorting equipment, planning and researching her route, communicating and making contacts, fulfilling press obligations, preparing her keynote talks to raise the critical funds she needs to sustain herself financially, and the list goes on.  The next morning she would generally be up and gone before we even rose.  Her energy and drive were incredible, and to anyone who may be thinking she is on a gloriously relaxing holiday, I can assure you that it is in fact very, very hard work.

Sandy Robson prepares her kayak on Tanjung Beach in Singapore ready for departure to Batam Indonesia (Sunday 26 April 2015)

Sandy Robson prepares her kayak on Tanjung Beach in Singapore ready for departure to Batam Indonesia (Sunday 26 April 2015)

What lies ahead of Sandy is 10,000km of perhaps the toughest paddling of her entire journey.  The monsoon winds have turned now, from the North Easterlies which would have blown her down towards Australia, to the dreaded South Westerly monsoon which she will be paddling directly into.  The ‘Selats’ or Straits between the Indonesian Islands have massive tidal streams reaching 5 – 8 knots (4m/s) current speeds.  Currents that swept Oscar Speck 20km out to the open ocean before he could escape their awesome clutch.  Pirates, crocodiles, Komodo Dragons, 200km open sea crossings, lightning storms, and being in foreign lands where she does not speak the language.  Day after day, night after night, for 1.5 years more (or for ‘as long as it takes’ according to Sandy), she will continue her journey. But far from feeling sad, worried, or even anxious for Sandy, I reminded myself I should be happy.  For those of us fortunate to know Sandy we should feel proud.  For those who have never met her then you should feel inspired.  Sandy has the experience, the skill and the mental and physical strength to finish this journey.  She is living her dream, every single day and night, month after month, year after year, doing something she loves.  In terms of expedition style, hers  is a role model –  environmentally friendly, naturally powered and minimal impact.  No raping of the world’s non-renewable resources for short term glory here.  She is setting a tremendously positive example about what can be achieved in a sustainable manner and above all, is having one hell of an adventure.  I cannot wait for my next adventure – how about you?

Saying goodbye to Sandy on Tanjung beach.

Saying goodbye to Sandy on Tanjung beach.

To follow Sandy’s progress South you can visit her Website or Facebook page at the links below.

www.sandy-robson.com

https://www.facebook.com/seakayakersandy?fref=ts

This interview features in the Inspiring People section of my website.  Not ‘inspiring’ in terms of making billions of dollars from raping the planet and the earth’s resources, but tales from ordinary people who do extraordinary things, who get out and make positive impacts, who send positive messages through the way they live their lives.  We all have a part to play in our future.  I am very excited to share these stories with you and if at least one of them can touch and inspire you to make positive changes then I will be very happy!

Inspiring People: Terence Tay – Singapore’s solo motorcycle nomad

Some of my favorite travelling experiences have been when I have been solo.  Today we catch up with a very cool cat, Terence Tay to talk about his passion – solo motorcycle touring around Asia.

[AXE]  Hi Terence – Can you tell us about your passion for ESMT? (extreme-solo-motorcycle-touring)

[TERENCE]  I’m not entirely sure if what I do can be considered extreme motorcycle touring, Axe. But I enjoy pottering around on a motorcycle, visiting places, meeting people and learning more about their cultures. Perhaps the only thing extreme is the food I put in my mouth! 

One man's meat is another man's delight. Sampling some rat meat, 100km outside of Bangkok. (Jan, 2015)
One man’s meat is another man’s delight. Sampling some rat meat, 100km outside of Bangkok. (Jan, 2015)

[AXE] How did you get into riding motorcycles in the first place?

[TERENCE]  It all started in college, many years ago. During my first week of school, I spotted some older boys, fooling around in the parking lot, on their dirt bikes. They were trying to do donuts, burnouts and wheelies on their bikes, if my memory serves me right. They weren’t very good, to be honest, but boy, they seemed to have loads of fun on their machines. 

We became friends later and they sort of got me interested in riding. We would meet up at night – school days or not – and go riding into MacRitchie forested area, prohibited, of course. Or race along Orchard Road(town) on weekends, also illegal. 

Motorcycles, to me, symbolise freedom and mobility. And a great way to start a conversation. It’s also a relatively cheap way to get around. For that reason, it’s a popular way to get around in an expensive city like Singapore.

Stuck in the Dawna Mountain Range, moments after clearing customs, at Mae Sot border, Burma.(Mar 2014) Teaches patience in a hurry.

Stuck in the Dawna Mountain Range, moments after clearing customs, at Mae Sot border, Burma.(Mar 2014) Teaches patience in a hurry.

[AXE] What gave you the idea to start motorcycle touring?

[TERENCE]  Before I sold my car in 2010, I was driving up and down Malaysia on my own. However, I wanted a better connection with the places that I’ve visited, as I felt that the sensory input bit was missing. It was like watching a movie inside a car. So I made a decision to sell the car and purchase a motorcycle so that I could “participate in the movie”. Now, I could feel the heat, smell the road, taste the rain and sometimes, touch the sky. 

I started riding on my own to Genting, Kuala Lumpur and Malacca in that order, before venturing out to Cameron Highlands that year. Then I rode up to Hatyai, Thailand with some other bikers. That was a breakthrough for me. Once I crossed into Thai soil, it sort of broke the mental barrier. My mental map expanded from just Malaysia to include Thailand. Now I’ve a build-in GPS for Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in my head as well. 

Taking a rest in the mid-day sun, en route to Mae Sariang, northern Thailand (Dec, 2012)

Taking a rest in the mid-day sun, en route to Mae Sariang, northern Thailand (Dec, 2012)

[AXE] Whats your largest adventure todate? Is this also your favorite adventure? If not what is and why?

[TERENCE] That’s a tough one, Axe. In terms of scale, the 15,000km, 82 day journey of Indochina would be my grandest. I travelled across Malaysia, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam before returning home to Singapore. It left me broke financially but a richer person, spiritually and mentally. I traveled really slowly on my motorcycle and experienced many things most tourists wouldn’t. I received kindness from locals less resourceful than myself and even took a step closer to mastering the art of non-verbal communication. All in all, I’ve a better feel of what our neighbours are doing up north, as it happens on the ground, and not as reported in the mainstream media.

15,000km, 82 days, a route map showing Terence's favorite adventure to-date.

15,000km, 82 days, a route map showing Terence’s favorite adventure to-date.

It’s arguably my best adventure, if not for the one that followed. Last December, I was able to share my love for motorcycle touring with my partner Cher who has never toured on a motorcycle before. So to push and prod her around Thailand on a 6,700km journey over 23 days and return her safely to her parents…that felt really special. It felt like an achievement.

It’s one thing to be able to do something you’re passionate about. To share that passion with the person you love, priceless.   

Cher right, me left. Sampling Chinese style dim sum near Golden Triangle. Nothing like sharing one's adventure with a partner. (Jan, 2015)

Cher right, Terence left. Sampling Chinese style dim sum near Golden Triangle. Nothing like sharing one’s adventure with a partner. (Jan, 2015)

Making sure that our armpits receive an equal amount of sunlight, and airing in Pai, Thailand. (Jan, 2015)

Making sure that our armpits receive an equal amount of sunlight, and airing in Pai, Thailand. (Jan, 2015)

[AXE]  Why do you normally choose to ride solo?

[TERENCE]  Ah, that’s a simple one. When you ride alone, you’re the boss. You get to make all the decisions, and accept all the consequences. Life’s easier that way. When you ride in a group, more often than not, you’ve to share that responsibility. 

Also, riding alone reduces the barrier between others and me. I may become an easier target for crime perhaps but the distance between two strangers shrinks very quickly too. So if I become a victim of a crime, it’s also easier to get help.

At Vientiane, Laos. The Arc de Trioumph or Patuxai Arc. Can't afford the real thing in France so this will do for now. (May, 2015)

At Vientiane, Laos. The Arc de Trioumph or Patuxai Arc. Can’t afford the real thing in France so this will do for now. (May, 2015)

[AXE]  What are the three best things that undertaking these massive adventures has taught you?

[TERENCE]

1) Life’s about making decisions. Better decision, better quality of Life.

2) You can only control what you can only control. So always start with that first.

3) If nothing happens, nothing happens. No worries!

Dealing with corrupted border/custom officers in Poipet, Cambodia. Part of the experience. (Apr 2014)

Dealing with corrupted border/custom officers in Poipet, Cambodia. Part of the experience. (Apr 2014)

[AXE] Terence – I understand some of your trips you have given back to the local communities – what have you done, what gave you the motivation to do this?

[TERENCE]  Yes, I may have been alone on trips but I couldn’t have done it alone. I’ve received much kindness and generosity on the road, from random strangers mainly. So I try to give as much as I receive so usually, towards the end of a trip, on the return leg, I’ll seek out the homeless and destitute along way and leave pieces of clothes(freshly laundered, I might add!) with them. 
 
The last trip, however, Cher and I decided to take a more organized approach and adopt an orphanage in Mae Sot. The goal was to raise awareness and funds during the ride. The response was very encouraging and we met our fund-raising goal quickly. We even received 2 solar cells from Third Wave Power, a local tech company, and 4 amazing adventure books “From Peak to Peak” from a Kiwi author (who chose to remain anonymous) to donate! How about that!
Traveling via a motorcycle allows me to take a glimpse of everyday people on the ground, and witness how they go about their daily business. At a kampong or village house in Central Cambodia. (Apr, 2014)

Traveling via a motorcycle allows me to take a glimpse of everyday people on the ground,
and witness how they go about their daily business. At a kampong or village house in Central Cambodia. (Apr, 2014)

Giving a random stranger a free ride over the Hai Van Pass to Danang, 30km away. Sometimes you help others and sometimes, others help you. (May, 2014)

Giving a random stranger a free ride over the Hai Van Pass to Danang, 30km away. Sometimes you help others and sometimes, others help you. (May, 2014)

[AXE]  Riding motorbikes is risky in Singapore. Let alone around Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar – how do you handle the risk personally and how does your family handle the risk?

[TERENCE]  Gee Axe, that’s a tough one. I’m generally a risk-taker. The greater the risk, the greater the rewards, presumably. If there’s a 80% chance of survival, I would usually accept the challenge. Not sure how that would sit with my parents but they stopped worrying about me since the Indochina trip. 

On the national highway in Laos, built by the same people who worked on the Cambodian national highway.

On the national highway in Laos, built by the same people who worked on the Cambodian national highway.

[AXE]  What is the hardest thing about any motorcycle adventure? 

[TERENCE]  For me, it would be to stop. I enjoy life on the open road. Perhaps too much! So whenever the end of a journey draws near, I will start to feel a tinge of sadness in my heart. Then I dream about the next adventure. 

[AXE]  How would you recommend people to get started motorcycle touring? What would you tell them if they said they were worried about the risk?

[TERENCE]

1) Start with a motorcycle that you can pick up over and over by yourself.

2) Pack light to go farther.

3) Have a plan but prepare to make changes along the way.

As for risk, Life’s too short to worry about dying. Start living today!

Riding along a bamboo bridge in central Cambodia. It's only good for 6 months.  (The monsoon will wash it away, only for the villagers to rebuild after that. Talk about resilience.)

Riding along a bamboo bridge in central Cambodia. It’s only good for 6 months.
(The monsoon will wash it away, only for the villagers to rebuild after that. Talk about resilience.)

[AXE]  Whats your dream journey?

[TERENCE]  Right now, it’s a toss up between circumnavigating India or running the length of Americas, from Argentina to Alaska! Thank you so much for the thoughtful questions, mate.

One of the many sunsets on the road. It's usually the last reminder to stop messing about on the road and find a guesthouse quickly.

One of the many sunsets on the road. It’s usually the last reminder to stop messing about on the road and find a guesthouse quickly.

[AXE] Terence thanks so much for taking the time to share your adventure’s.  To follow Terence please like his facebook page: Facebook.com/anywherebutsouth
This interview features in the Inspiring People section of my website.  Not ‘inspiring’ in terms of making billions of dollars from raping the planet and the earth’s resources, but tales from ordinary people who do extraordinary things, who get out and make positive impacts, who send positive messages through the way they live their lives.  We all have a part to play in our future.  I am very excited to share these stories with you and if at least one of them can touch and inspire you to make positive changes then I will be very happy!

Inspiring people: Dave Field – losing weight one mile at a time

Lose weight without changing your eating plan, no expensive gym or crash diet programs and only 7 – 10 minutes of exercise per day? Possible or Impossible?  To answer the question this week we catch up with fellow kiwi Dave Field for a peek at what he has been up to for the last 365+ days 

[AXE]  Hi Dave, firstly a massive congratulations on reaching your 365 day goal. Can you give us a brief overview of what you have just accomplished?

[DAVE]  Thanks Axe!  Basically I ran every day for a year.  It’s known as Running Streak and the thing is to run a minimum of 1 mile per day for however long you want your Streak to last.  My original goal was for a year and I achieved that on 1 Jan 2015.

I didn’t run marathons or anything in getting there, I just focused on my Run Streak.  Days when I had more time I would run for longer, other days I would just run the 1 mile. Some were faster than others; some were run hung over….  I would say that 80% of my runs were between 2-4km and started at my front door.  I generally went for longer runs in the weekends or if were away somewhere and I wanted to explore a bit more.  I mixed up running on the pavement and on local trails.

I think my highlight run was completing a 13.5km skyline run in Wellington (NZ) with my two brothers and sister-in-law (see photo 1). There is a 100m vertical climb hill near to home and it was a highlight running up there the first time, then again when I ran up pushing my daughters baby buggy.  Running in Adelaide during a heat wave and near Wilpena Pound, Bluff Hill (NZ), which almost killed me, then the humidity of Singapore and Malaysia on work trips

A happy Dave (right side of photo in green) after completing the Skyline Run Wellington Dec 2014.

A happy Dave (right side of photo in green) after completing the Skyline Run Wellington Dec 2014.

[AXE]  You mean you ran every single day for one year – never missing not even one day? What if you were sick?

[DAVE]  That’s right Axe. I never missed a day – even when I had the flu I got out for a trot.    There was one run I had to complete in wet work gear and shoes after a minor boating mishap (involving flares, life rafts, at sea rescue, lost car keys, locked out of my house for 18-hours), but that is a different story…So no, never missed a day.

[AXE]  What was the motivation for undertaking this and where did you learn about it?

[DAVE] I guess I wanted to be fitter and lose some weight.  I wasn’t particularly worried about either but I had been fitter in the past. Also it was a challenge to complete and something that not many other people had done also provided motivation. 

I knew about it about it through a friend (Greg Camburn) who was already doing it.  We had talked about how he managed it over a few beers, after which he ran home to his place whilst I walked and we had a few more beers back at his. He had made it work and it sounded like fun, or at least something totally different.    After having a look online (http://www.runeveryday.com/) there were people who had been doing it for 45+ years!  From there I figured it was a bit different and something I wanted to complete.

Th 'before' shot - a happy Dave in 2013 - over 11kg heavier before he started the running streak.

The ‘before’ shot – a happy Dave (on the left) in 2013 – over 11kg heavier before he started the running streak.

[AXE]  How long did you think about it before you made the decision to commit? What considerations did you take into account?

[DAVE] About 10 minutes!  Dee, my wife, was driving me to the airport on 2 January 2014 and I said maybe I should just do what Greg does and run every day…it seemed like a good idea!  I had my running gear in my bag so when I arrived in Tauranga at 5pm that night I went for a quick run before heading out for dinner with the work guys.  That was the start of it.  I told people that’s what I was doing and so was committed I guess..I obviously knew about it before hand but hadn’t made the mental jump to do it.  Now I am four months behind Greg and am secretly waiting for him to miss a day!

Considerations, I guess not many given the time I thought about it!  I had been doing a bit of running, trying for the typical 4-5km two to three times a week and a longer one in the weekend but to be honest I was not that dedicated to it and each run always felt like a slog.  I wasn’t very motivated to do it and I used the excuse that I was busy at work and I couldn’t find the 25-30min to go for a run, so realistically was only doing 2-3 runs per week.  I had a busy year ahead at work and was due to become a Dad for the first time so I wanted something achievable.  Some may laugh that running everyday doesn’t sound achievable but I guess I broke it down day by day and being achievable meant that I had to run for 10-minutes per day.   I am not a natural runner but knew I could run and that if I put my mind to it I could achieve it. 

Did I set out to run every day for a year – yes. That was the goal.  Did I think I would make it???  Yes and no – I thought I might get injured or sick and not be able to achieve it, but I was committed to finding the time every day.  It gets a bit addictive as the numbers start racking up and the thought of having a rest day and having to start again at zero just doesn’t seem worth it.

Dave and Cate enjoying an early Sunday morning run together

Dave and Cate enjoying an early Sunday morning run together

[AXE]  What were the top three positive things you have got out of doing this challenge?

[DAVE] Overall I feel a million times better than when I started. I am fitter, lighter and healthier. This leads to being more active with our daughter Cate. Prior to the running streak I used to get sore knees whilst kneeling down (knee ACL reconstruction in 2001) and couldn’t stay there for long. I also used to suffer from a sore lower back if bending over a lot. So basically the worst things for trying to deal with a baby! The running sorted out my knees and a few sessions of burpee’s and sit-up’s a week sorted out my lower back. So personally I feel a lot lot better and Cate gets a fit and active Dad.

Other people would come for a run with me, not like Forrest Gump style but if I was going I would ask if they wanted to come along.  I think if I wasn’t there then they probably wouldn’t have run that day so it was good to motivate them and have someone to run with.  I would say to people that I don’t care what pace we run at, I can go as slow as you like or as fast as I can to keep up.  For me it was just another run and I enjoyed running with someone else for a change.

Thirdly I feel more positive and outgoing to do things whether that is fitness related or other.  I guess I am mentally stronger and know that if I want to achieve something I can.

[AXE]  Were there any completely unexpected benefits from doing it?

[DAVE]  When people ask or you tell them what you are doing they look at you as if you are mad.  To be honest it feels quite satisfying.  I enjoy running. I thought that I might get bored with the whole thing but quite the opposite.  Sure there are days when I am not as motivated as others but I still enjoy it. You recover from a hangover quicker!  Especially when you run first thing the following morning.

I recently learnt that I had inspired my cousin’s husband to start his Run Streak this year which is pretty cool I think. He thinks it’s a great concept and commented that he went out the other day for a 1-mile run but was feeling good so did 2-miles. And also that if he was trying to do 10 km three times a week he would be much more likely to find an excuse not to and get out of the habit. This is exactly what I found.

[AXE]  What was the hardest thing about completing it? Did you ever think about giving up?

[DAVE]  The first week or so it’s a novelty, by day 60 I was feeling like it’s a pretty good achievement already, but after 160 days I was thinking there is so long to go and what am I doing….The mental aspect of it was the hardest thing, initially anyway, certainly at times it felt a bit like ground hog day.

To keep it varied I would change my route, add in sprints or hills, stop and do some press-ups etc.  During the week I would just run from home, around the streets and a few tracks nearby.  During the weekends I would try and go for a longer and more varied run, but it all depended on time available. Sometimes I would run hung over to pick up the car from the night before..

I can’t ever recall thinking about giving up but certainly some days I was more motivated than others!  Some days I would just plod around slowly thinking about anything but running.

[AXE]  You had a busy year I understand with becoming a father for the first time and work wise.  How did you handle it when things got really busy?

[DAVE]  Yeah it was a busy year and I am lucky to have a very supportive wife and a flexible job.  I found the beauty of the ‘minimum 1-mile’ thing is that if it was busy I would just do that.  If I really want to punch it out I can do the run in around 7-minutes….so it takes longer to get ready and stretch before and after (which I did for every run, no matter how long or short). For me, if I did the run in the morning it would only add 10-15 minutes to my day.  Get up, go for a run, have breakfast whilst cooling down, shower, off to work.  I figured that if I couldn’t find 15-minutes per day there was something wrong.

I would also try to make the run work around what I had to do during the day – drop the car off for a service, run home; run to work instead of the bus or if I didn’t have the car; run home from lunch with friends; run to the hardware store to pick up DIY items rather than driving; drag the boss out for a run at lunch a couple of times a week; or just run in the evening after all the chores were done.   My hospital bag for our daughters birth contained a set of running gear in it and I had mapped out a 1-mile route from the front doors of the hospital; luckily I had completed my run earlier in the day and didn’t have to test my wife’s support behind me doing my run during labour!

I also started running with my daughter in the buggy which was good workout and she loved it.  We did need to be mindful of Cate’s (my daughter) neck strength though so I didn’t do too much running early on and we used to wedge her in with support.  Recently we purchased a second-hand dedicated running buggy and I need to get out with that more often.  Running with Cate would also give Dee (my wife) a break as well and I would often go for longer runs which we all benefited from.

A happy Dave - on day 365, after the 365th continuous run!

A happy Dave – on day 365, after the 365th continuous run!

[AXE]  What advice would you give someone who was thinking about attempting something like this?

[DAVE]  Give it a go!  It is actually easier than you think.  It becomes a routine rather than a chore so your mindset about running changes, well it did for me anyway. 

Tackle it day by day and break whatever target you have into bit sized chunks. I would suggest starting slow by just completing the 1-mile run for the first few weeks so your body adjusts and build from there, if you want to.  Make sure you have easy runs so your body gets some rest.  Don’t worry about looking at your watch, your per km times will eventually fall.

[AXE]  Why do you think more people do not do things like this?

[DAVE]  I think because they think that such a short run or short session of something doesn’t have any benefit.  I am sure I was once told that if you don’t run for more than 20-minutes at a time you may as well not bother, which makes it very easy to say I won’t bother!  But there does seem to be more published research/articles recently suggesting that short but frequent runs or training sessions are the way to go.

I certainly found that it worked for me. I lost around 11kg and dropped about 1.5 minutes off my per km time. I generally eat healthy anyway but I didn’t go into a diet or anything, I still ate and drank whatever I wanted.  Motivation itself in that.

[AXE]  What does your wife/family and friends think about what you are doing and have done?

[DAVE]  My wife thinks it’s a great achievement and is very supportive of me continuing with it.  My family and friends think I am little bit mad and keep asking if I have missed a day…but think it’s a massive achievement.

[AXE]  Where to from here? are you planning to carry on with this?

[DAVE]  I don’t want to return to zero!  No, I enjoy it and want to continue so as of today (28 Jan) I am on day 392 and 500 is not far away..

This year I am looking to join a running club to meet some new people and explore some new trails.  I quite enjoy trail running and am interested in completing some 20+ km runs.  I am also looking to complete one of the OXFAM 100km walks with some work people, but recognise this will take a lot of training time, much more than 10min per day so will have to see how this one works out.

[AXE]  Awesome work Dave – thanks for taking the time to share your story.  You have inspired me to go for a run – see you out there!

This interview features in the Inspiring People section of my website.  Not ‘inspiring’ in terms of making billions of dollars from raping the planet and the earth’s resources, but tales from ordinary people who do extraordinary things, who get out and make positive impacts, who send positive messages through the way they live their lives.  We all have a part to play in our future.  I am very excited to share these stories with you and if at least one of them can touch and inspire you to make positive changes then I will be very happy!

Inspiring People: Ria Tan – Saving Singapore’s shoreline

I have lived in Singapore for 17 years, however it was not until I bought my inflatable kayak 3 years back that I started exploring the coast.  Many enjoyable kayaking trips later, I can say my eyes have been well and truly opened to the beauty of this tiny countries natural coastline! I have seen some amazing natural sights, including wild pigs on the beach in Pulau Ubin, snakes off Sungei Buloh, huge monitor lizards swimming between the Sisters Islands, a large turtle off Sentosa, a family of Otters swimming through a mangrove river and a Dugong or Dolphin which surfaced very close to our kayak in Chek Jawa.  All these animals I saw in their natural environement, at zero cost to me other than some human powered effort to paddle my boat on my weekend micro adventures.  While researching idea’s for area’s to paddle, I stumbled across a very interesting website called WILDSINGAPORE – run by Ms Ria Tan.  Ria is extremely passionate about the shores of Singapore and we catch up with her here to learn more about she is up to.

[AXE]  Hi Ria – thanks for taking the time out to talk to us – can you let us know about your website WILDSINGAPORE and what the purpose/aim of this website is?

[RIA]  My hope is that wildsingapore can be a one-stop location for those who want to learn about our wild places; and do more for them.   When I first got interested in nature in Singapore, I struggled to find out more. I felt I should compile what I had found in a simple website. Over the years, the wildsingapore resources got bigger and wilder. I added a news blog, a happenings blog, online photos for free download, fact sheets and more. It is now quite a jungle! I apologise to those who get lost in the website. I definitely didn’t expect it to turn out this way when I first started.

[AXE]   How did you first get interested in the the marine conservation of Singapore’s shoreline?

[RIA]   My first real taste of wild nature in Singapore was as volunteer guide at Sungei Buloh. I then heard about and visited Chek Jawa. It was gorgeous. This was my first photo of Chek Jawa  427626099_11337693d3_z I was distraught to learn that it would be reclaimed in about 6 months. I did what I could, bringing everyone I could to see Chek Jawa before it was gone forever and posting photos online (I had to learn html!). I was astonished when reclamation was deferred.  We nearly lost Chek Jawa because we simply didn’t know it was there. Its marine wonders are only easily seen at low tide. Are there any other amazing shores in Singapore? I wondered. I vowed to visit a shore every low spring tide to find out.  (The living rubble at Chek Jawa before the boardwalk was built)  601505539_a9995be726_z I thought I would cover all Singapore shoresin two years. I’ve been doing this for more than a decade and I still haven’t seen every Singapore shore!  I now make about 100 field trips every year covering about 40 locations.  And every Singapore shore is full of life! I blog all my field trips on the wild shores of Singapore blog (Pulau Satumu, the location of Raffles Lighthouse, has some of the best reefs in Singapore.  463798487_9ae9a3e380_b My seashore travels also led me to meet amazing people who work tirelessly, quietly, every day, on a broad range of issues that impact our marine life. Besides our amazing marine life, it is these like-hearted friends that keep me going. (Here’s the enthusiastic volunteers of TeamSeagrasswho monitor 6 shores in Singapore) 7730322476_75aa68a826_b [AXE]  You blog and post information about Singapore on a daily basis – this takes enormous energy and commitment on a long-term level – can you explain what gives you the energy to do this?

[RIA]   I am very keen to learn and know the latest news about Singapore’s wild places and the issues that affect them. Since I’m already reading the news, it isn’t really much additional effort to share them on the wildsingapore news blog.   I love to visit Singapore’s wild places and join activities for ordinary people to learn more about them. Many of them are offered by passionate volunteers for free. So I am very glad to share these on the wildsingapore happenings blog.  It doesn’t take much time or effort. My day doesn’t seem right if I haven’t done the daily updates. 

[AXE]   Do you have another job or is WILDSINGAPORE your full time occupation?

[RIA]   I have been doing wildsingapore for about 10 years while I had a full-time job. I retired about 3 years ago and am now doing wildsingapore and other wild stuff full time.

[AXE]  You say on your site – your life is governed not like the vast majority of us by human related daily milestones – but the the cycles of the tide.  What do you mean by this?

[RIA]   My priority today remains keeping an eye on all of Singapore’s shores. Together with some wacky hard-core volunteers, we go out every low spring tide to check out one of our many beloved shores. (Landing at Pulau Jong, one of the last undeveloped islands in Singapore. 14862379273_d9d5d6859d_b The best low tides happen from about 2am to sunrise, so the team suffers greatly from self-inflicted jet lag and sleep deprivation for half of the year. (Predawn survey on Terumbu Semakau, a submerged reef opposite Pulau Bukom. 5581734870_ec91e1e055_b During neap low tides, I also check out the mangroves. (Fun in the mud with the Mega Marine Survey of Singapore, a once-in-a-lifetime survey to document Singapore’s rich marine biodiversity. 5438175031_1c0925f65a_b My life is planned around these tidal events because the field trips are getting harder on me as I get older. I can’t do much else after a low tide trip. More about our wacky tides here http://www.wildsingapore.com/wildfacts/concepts/tides.htm

[AXE]  What is the current status of Singapore’s coastline, is it in good condition, bad condition, deteriorating or improving? [RIA]   There are so many different shores. Each with different situations that is difficult to make a general statement.  Despite having massive petrochemical and industrial facilities in our Southern Islands, and being one of the world’s busiest ports, Singapore’s waters are quite clean and wildlife teams in our wild Southern islands and reefs. Cyrene Reef for example, has some of Singapore’s best sea grass meadows in the South, and teems with large sea stars and other awesome marine life. This despite it being located in the middle of what I call the Industrial Triangle. 4600783141_0778c24dcf_z I was very surprised to discover a vibrant coral reef growing on the artificial seawalls at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal.  12744128104_da79a22985_h Nearby, seagrasses have settled on the artificial reclaimed lagoons. And these reefs and seagrass meadows survived the massive oil spill in 2010. Mangrove trees have even settled naturally on the artificial seawalls at Pulau Hantu!  8734512126_3676031450_b This has given me the delirious idea that perhaps a ‘Singapore Great Barrier Reef’ is possible when we construct seawalls appropriately?

[AXE]  What are your favorite area’s in Singapore’s coastline that you would recommend for readers to visit if they have the chance?

[RIA]   Chek Jawa remains dear to me and now with a boardwalk, anyone can visit at any tide! This shore is found on Pulau Ubin, Singapore’s last unspoilt island, and a refuge from city-living.  4124197499_f4538d23fa_z No need to swim, no need to dive! The Sisters Islands have some of Singapore’s best reefs that are easy for ordinary people to visit at low tide. These islands are now part of The Sisters Islands Marine Park and there will be programmes for ordinary people to join as visitors or volunteers. It will also be developed for divers and volunteer divers will eventually have a role too. (Amazing reefs at Big Sisters Island can be seen from the jetty. And yes, sometimes the viz in Singapore can be awesome!  444441437_7a7f7d836e_z Pulau Hantu is a great place to dive in Singapore. Join the Hantu Bloggers, volunteers who conduct guided dives every month there. (The living reefs of Pulau Hantu at low spring tide) 4600783141_0778c24dcf_z On the mainland, explore our magnificent mangroves at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, now with an extension at Kranji that allows kids to get muddy and close to nature. Or explore a mangrove boardwalk at night at Pasir Ris. There’s even a mangrove boardwalk right next to an MRT station!Berlayar Creek just steps from Labrador MRT station. (Sankar, a volunteer guide with the Naked Hermit Crabs, introduces kids to the mangroves at Pasir Ris. 8591861948_0bf7cc48b3_b I guide with the Naked Hermit Crabs and we offer free monthly guided walks at Chek Jawa and Pasir Ris specially for families and kids. More about Singapore’s wild places.

[AXE]  What are some of the surprising animals and natural life that you have discovered that many people would not know we have here?

[RIA]   Most people are surprised to know wild dolphins frolick in Singapore’s waters and that sea turtles lay eggs and babies hatch out at East Coast Park. More here. We also have dugongs. Although I have yet to see a live one, I do often see dugong feeding trails on seagrass meadows such as at Changi and even in our Southern submerged reefs, such as these on Terumbu Pempang Laut, a submerged reef near the petrochemical plants on Pulau Bukom.   7383193970_3af541ffc0_b One of the most amazing creatures I saw is a White-spotted eagle ray, which belongs to the family of Manta rays. I saw it at Tanah Merah’s artificial lagoon during one of my monthly checks on this shore after the massive oil spill there in 2010. I was alone, it was dark, and I was trying to photograph some squids in knee deep water. When this humungous thing swooped into my torchlight. I fled in one direction, the creature in the opposite direction. After sunrise, I went back to look for it and was astounded to see this beautiful creature!5724329079_3ce9b4e660_b [AXE]  What is the largest threat to Singapore’s coastline and how can we help protect against this?

[RIA]   I think the largest threat is that most people do not know that Singapore has amazing marine life. But people do care deeply once they realise what we have. And most people will then do what they can to protect our natural heritage. Another threat is an attitude of helplessness or cynicism. We need to do what we can, every action matters, no matter how small we might think it is. We also should encourage those who act. Too often we are quick to complain but slow to praise and support those who are trying to do something right. I am constantly delighted to discover the many quiet souls working tirelessly on protecting Singapore’s shores. Many work in government, others in corporations and many more as volunteers. And the countless fathers and mothers raising aware children. Priscilla the tame Wild Boar, accompanied visitors on Chek Jawa. 1203364430_f33795455c_z There are and will always be threats. The best protection is people. Who understand and care.

[AXE]  On your site – you say we can all make a difference to conserving our environment – can you give us some practical idea’s how we can do this by making changes in the way we live and work?

[RIA]   wildsingapore’s tagline is “You CAN make a difference”. And how shall we do this? Simply explore, express, ACT. Explore Singapore’s wild places. See, smell, feel them for yourself. Bring your friends and family.  Express what you feel about our wild places. Share on social media. A photo or two is enough. Speak up politely but firmly when a wild place is threatened. And ACT where you can. There are a wide range of volunteer opportunities to suit various inclinations and time availability that allow ordinary people to learn and love and make a different for our wild places. 

[AXE]  When you go to sleep at night, what is the main thing that makes you happy and content that you may have achieved during your day?

[RIA]   At my age, I’m grateful for every day that I can walk and do my bit. And during low tide, I’m so sleep deprived I have no trouble sleeping, though this usually happens in broad daylight!   What makes me happy and content, is to see the wonder in the eyes of a child or a young-at-heart visitor when they first discover their very own shores. Like these delightful young ladies at the Sisters Islands Marine Park public walk. 14736547838_4965f5fe7c_b It is in their hands that the fate of our seashores and other natural wonders lie.

[AXE]  Ria – thanks so much for taking the time to speak to us today – your amazing passion shows through in the work you are doing and the positive example you set, informing and educating us about the wonderfully abundant, diverse and unique natural world – and what we have to loose if we do not look after it.

This interview in in the Inspiring People section of my website.  Not ‘inspiring’ in terms of making billions of dollars from raping the planet and the earth’s resources, but tales from people who get out and make positive impacts, who send positive messages through the way they live their lives.  We all have a part to play in our future.  I am very excited to share these stories with you and if at least one of them can touch and inspire you to make positive changes then I will be very happy!

Inspiring People: Andrew Glass – human power from Singapore to Pulau Tengah

Adding to the ‘Inspiring People’ section of my website – today we catch up with an adventurous Australian, Andrew Glass – a.k.a ‘Glassy’.  Glassy recently had a family holiday and decided to spice it up by travelling to his Island destination completely by human power!  Read more about what he did, how he did it and what the biggest challenges were below:

[Axe]  Glassy thanks for taking time to catch up.  What was the nature of your adventure?

[Glassy] Hi Axe, Well we’d planned a holiday with 8 families to a resort in Malaysia, on an island 16km off the coast of Mersing, Pulau Tengah.  Inspired by your human powered achievements Axe, I thought I could attempt a human powered transit challenge myself by completing the journey under my own steam.  That meant cycling 154km from my home (Dempsey Hill, Singapore) to Mersing in Malaysia, then kayaking the 16km open water crossing to Pulau Tengah to have earnt the food, and comfort that comes with holidays!  When I initially proposed this idea to the other 8 dads (and any mums) who were coming on the trip, they all laughed and thought I was barking mad!

Map showing Glassy's route via bicycle and kayak

Map showing Glassy’s route via bicycle and kayak

[Axe] What gave you the idea to try something like this?

[Glassy] I was inspired by your blogs and the previous 28km open water kayaking trip you asked me to join to Pulau Pisang on West Coast Malaysia – which did scare me a bit while we were out there to be honest, but I really enjoyed the challenge and trip.

[Axe] How much pre-planning did you do?

[Glassy] This was the most important factor. I know how much you did for our Pisang trip and other adventures as an example.

While planning is important regardless, going alone made it even more important with no back up in case of a problem. I considered these issues in my pre-planning:

Cycle:  best time to make the ride? distance? estimated speed and arrival time? breaks? hydration? calories? safety lights, charged mobile, cards with emergency contacts and having people aware of what I was doing in case any problem en route.

Kayak: more daunting, requiring above but in addition, research into tides, currents, winds, expected weather, distance, speed and departure/anticipated arrival notification to police & the destination resort.

The SPOT Tracker satellite beeper that you lent me also gave me an added level of comfort/safety mate, thanks (You can see Glassy’s real-time GPS track at this link here).

 [Axe]  What was the biggest obstacles to PREPARING and planning for this trip?

[Glassy] Convincing my wife I would be OK and it was not as dangerous as EVERYONE was telling her (and me), particularly the cycle on Malaysian roads.

But there are no real physical obstacles for preparation, you just make lists and speak to people with experience to cover as many eventualities and prepare accordingly.

Glassy on the cycle ride meeting up with a friendly fellow road cyclist.

Glassy on the cycle ride meeting up with a friendly fellow road cyclist.

 [Axe]  Every REAL adventure has RISK.  How much RISK did your trip have, and how did you manage this to a level you and your wife were comfortable with?

 [Glassy]  The largest perceived risk was being run over on the cycle to Mersing. Axe, you were about the only one that did not try and convince me not to do it.

There is definitely risk, both in the cycle and the kayak. However, if you have made your mind up to deal with the risk, you just try and minimize it. E.g. plenty of lights on your bike, don’t ride with earphones and keep alert – not much more you can do. The kayaking risk was primarily nature. You do what you can to be aware of conditions and make the choice to proceed or not with logic, not testosterone. I had confidence from the Pisang trip that I could do it, knew I had done homework on conditions, had the safety gear with me and your tracking device. Risk evaluation and mitigation is the key.

Glassy set's out on the 16km paddle

Glassy set’s out on the 16km paddle

[Axe]   How much physical training was necessary for this trip?

[Glassy]  To be honest, not a lot. I am not in peak shape, but not untrained either. I cycle most days to/from work, occasional run and swim. I feel for something like this it is mostly mind over matter.

[Axe]   So you would say that mental strength is more important than physical strength for something like this? i.e. is it more importantly to be super fit and strong OR is was it more difficult to have the mental strength to commit yourself to the RISK and UNCERTAINTY?

[Glassy]  Mental strength and commitment without doubt.

[Axe]  What did your wife think about you attempting this?

[Glassy]  While not surprised, she was very concerned about the ride in particular and was till the morning still trying to talk me out of it – till I reminded her how much I am insured for,… joking (I hope!).

[Axe]  What was the success rate your gave yourself when starting this out of successfully finishing it?

[Glassy]  95%

 [Axe]  Did you ever feel like backing out?

 [Glassy]  It did cross my mind before departing as the weight of concern for the ride was large. However, once I left the house, It did not cross my mind again, I was 100% committed – if for nothing else, to prove all the naysayers wrong after I had shot my mouth off too much calling them all soft.

 [Axe]  Did you want to do this yourself or would you have liked a partner?

 [Glassy]  Honestly, I would have much preferred a partner for both comradeship, and even more so for safety.

 [Axe]  What was the best experiences/positives your gained from your trip?

 [Glassy]  Proving to myself I could do it at 41. Showing an example to my kids.

Actually just having the time to myself with no phones or anything while pursuing a goal is also quite refreshing.

And seeing/hearing the flicker of envy that the other dad’s on the island showed when I had arrived!

 [Axe]  What was the worst part about your trip?

[Glassy]  10km after stopping for my last break with 35km to go the rolling hills just got to me and the speed really slowed. The heat had risen and then I cramped up. Had to stop and walk 50m before remounting. Found my mojo again and sped up, but then 10km from Mersing was smashed by a rainstorm for the rest of the cycle, but just ploughed through it.

[Axe]  Would you do this again? If yes/no why? and what would you change?

[Glassy]  Yes, would do it again, but probably not exactly the same. I enjoyed it all, but there are infinite variants to that trip and others to do. I would like to do a different, larger challenge and with at least one other or a small crew next time.

[Axe]  Any advice for anyone else who is planning a similar trip?

[Glassy]  DO IT.   But, just do it smart. Plan well and do not be driven by ego etc. to continue if the risk level exceeds the tipping point of reasonable safety.

Glassy's car complete with kayak and bicycle on the way home from a family holiday he won't forget for some time.

Glassy’s car complete with kayak and bicycle on the way home from a family holiday he won’t forget for some time.

[Axe]  Glassy – thanks for your time – I personally found it inspiring to see what you managed to fit in to your family vacation. All the best for your future adventures!

Inspiring People: Max Maximeflon, Three reasons why you should let complete strangers into your house

“Be wary of strangers”.  Most of us will be familiar with having this life-lesson drummed into us since young.  You only have to read the news to see shocking examples of random violence, dishonesty or sexual crimes committed by people seemingly unknown to one another.  Worse still we are warned – NEVER invite a complete stranger into your house!  John Saul an American suspense/horror writer wrote: “If you open your house to strangers, who knows who might come in. And what they might be after. Or whom.” Whilst the quote does not specifically mention anything negative, it is hard for us NOT to conjure up the sinister overtones.

Yet by following this adage we can be missing out on some of life’s most amazing and fulfilling experiences.  The chance to meet new people, to open our eyes to new experiences, to share time and a meal with someone we have never met and to be inspired.  My richest experiences and memories from 20 years travelling and adventuring have actually come from the people I have met along the way, complete strangers who have shown me acts of kindness yet expected nothing in return.

Here are the top three reasons I believe we should consider inviting strangers into our house.

Reason One – Become a great ambassador for your country

Jack and Ngaire Rawlinson - great ambassadors for New Zealand

Jack and Ngaire Rawlinson – great ambassadors for New Zealand

Recently outside their home, my mother and father once came across an older couple, riding bicycles along the road.  As the evening was getting late, my father stopped them and asked them if they needed a place to stay for the night.  It turned out the couple was from Germany, they were on a cycling tour in New Zealand, and they indeed needed a place to stay as it was late and they were tired.  My mother when recounting the story to me later, told me how embarrassed she was, as she did not have time to cook them a proper dinner and instead prepared them something quickly as it was late.  When hearing this I told my mother that instead of being embarrassed she should be proud.  As that one simple act of kindness that her and my father had showed, would have created the most powerful, positive and lasting memories that any traveler can experience.  The opportunity in a distant land to be shown kindness from strangers, be invited to someones home, and for a few short hours get a glimpse into their life.  And when these cyclists returned to Germany they would retell this story to so many people, about how complete strangers in New Zealand would stop them on the side of the road and invite them to stay for the night.  What better reputation for a country to have?

Jack and Ngaire Rawlinson get a chance to try out German cycling technology.

Jack and Ngaire Rawlinson get a chance to try out German cycling technology.

Reason Two – Dispel myth’s and break down cultural barriers

David Lim my climbing partner makes new friends in the Shepherds hut on the side of Mt Damavand.

David Lim my climbing partner makes new friends in the Shepherds hut on the side of Mt Damavand.

In 2007 I spent two weeks mountaineering in Iran with my climbing partner David Lim.  We had no guides and climbed independently.  I was terrified of travelling to Iran, and had images of being chased down the streets by mobs of crazed Iranians who may have mistook me for an American.  So I made the decision to keep a very low profile, to avoid contact with people and get in and out as quietly as possible, hopefully talking to as few people as possible.  Towards the end of our expedition we had reached the summit of Mt Damavand, the highest mountain in the country and were exhausted on our decent.  We made it down to the lower slopes of the mountain, where we had arranged a 4-wheel drive to collect us. However there was some delay.  As we were setting-up our small tent I noticed some shepherds in the distance around a stone hut.  They were gesturing and pointing at us and my heart was in my mouth as I realised my worst nightmare was about to unfold.  Here in this remote region of Iran, we were going to be attacked by a crazed mob of Iranian’s who would take out years of frustration and resentment against the west, upon me.  But instead of beating us, they greeted us, and even though we shared no common tongue, through sign language they invited us into their very basic home for the evening.  That night they slaughtered a sheep and cooked us a beautiful dinner, complete with mug after mug of Iranian tea, and instead of our tents we slept on a comfortable carpet on the floor of their hut.  It was an incredibly rich experience for me and that one evening broke down any of the negative feelings or perceptions that I had forged from the media about Iranian people.  Over the last few days of the expedition we got to spent more time with Iranian people and I found them to have a deep and rich cultural history and without exception were intelligent, warm and incredibly friendly people.  How wrong my initial conceptions had been before those strangers had invited me into their house.

With my new friend, an Iranian Shepherd is his  simple but comfortable hut on the side of Mt Damavand.

With my new friend, an Iranian Shepherd is his simple but comfortable hut on the side of Mt Damavand.

Reason three – Be inspired

I am a non-religious however I do like this quote from the bible:

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

Aland and I with Maxc - the friendly Frenchman who allowed us to sleep in a tent in his garden when all accomodation was booked out.

Alan and I with Max Maximeflon – the friendly Frenchman who allowed us to sleep in a tent in his garden when all accommodation was booked out.

In August 2014 I was on a 2000km human powered-journey between the summit of Scotland and the summit of France. After 1500km of climbing, kayaking and cycling we arrived on day 14 in a small town called Provins in France.  Out visit coincided with their summer festival and consequently all accommodation was booked out.  We were tired at the end of the days cycling and ended up at the village information centre.  They politely told us there was no more options for anywhere to stay for the night.  My heart slumped as I stood at the counter, wondering what to do.  Then a young man named Max, who worked at the Information Center, overheard the conversation and invited Alan and myself to set-up our tent in his garden.  We would have slept in a chicken coup by this stage so we gladly accepted.  Max also invited us out with his family and friends that evening to the village festival.  We drank beer, ate and talked long into the evening.  It was a wonderful experience and when we left the next morning I felt priviliged and fortunate to have met Max, but at the same time, slightly guilty that he would not accept any money from us as payment for us staying with him.  A few weeks later I received the following email from Max and it was then that I realised that Max had in fact received something from our visit – by opening his house and allowing two complete strangers to stay for the evening he had received the gift of inspiration.

Dear Grant, (if you please, can forward this message to Alan because it’s also for him)

I have to thank you, a big thank you, un grand merci.

Life can be something about chance, destiny or providence. Because i’m believing in God i truly believe now that meeting you was providence. Your trip, your personality, your force give me so much inspiration & power, i feel much more stronger. I discovered your website, & i was really impressed about all this big things you made but also about what you call “micro-adventure”. I laughed a lot when i red all the part about your staying in Provins. I was supposed to go for an expensive weekend trip in Copenhagen, finally i moved my plans, i decided to organize my first micro-adventure: 3 days of hiking in the alps. I like to be a leader, to be the guy who is in charge of the organisation, planning the best way, create the right team. We were 4, unprepared, inexperienced people but ready to make in 3 days 35km, 1000m elevation, sleeping in tents (the fashion one, the one you used !). This hiking was really to hard for us, but because of our mental strength, of your inspiration, we made it & it was great, heavy bag, frozen tent in the morning, bad choice of food, thin sleepy bag, too technical lakes for fly fishing…mistakes of beginners but it was fine.

On the second day, we stayed at the lac du Pormenaz, I decided to go by my own on the top of the mountain on “la pointe noire du Pormenaz” 1950M to 2320M at the summit. I made the trail (with a little bit of climbing at the end) in 1h40 round trip. I’ll never forget my “pointe noire” because it’s my first one, & i’m a little bit proud.

Grant, Alan, you opened a box in my life, a box full of mountains & new experience. I feel much more stronger & i will use this experience as a lever in my personal & professional life. I will try to move things in my life (more sport, less cigarettes) to go higher & higher, to push the limits, step by step, safely.

Many thanks & cheers (because we both like good beers & beautiful landscapes)

Max Maximeflon

I have created the INSPIRING PEOPLE section on my website, where I interview people who are doing inspiring things.  Not ‘inspiring’ in terms of making billions of dollars from raping the planet and the earth’s resources, or undertaking activities that burn copious amounts of fossil fuels.  But tales from people who get out and make positive impacts, who send positive messages through the way they live their lives.  We all have a part to play in the future of our planet.  I am very excited to share these stories with you and if at least one of them can touch and inspire you to make positive changes then I will be very happy.

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