Since finishing our last expedition we have been planning an endurance event that truly deserves the name. We wanted to recreate the mental battle often experienced during an expedition but do so in a single 24 hour period and in Ireland.
To do this we knew we would have to find a course that would test anyone who set foot upon it and would be distinctly Irish. After months of planning we believe we have found the ideal course in North West Donegal. Stunning coastline and the rugged open spaces of Glenveigh National Park combine to ensure The Race will be as spectacular as it will be grueling.
The event will be held on 1st March 2014 with our new website launching on 3rd July 2013. Check out www.therace.ie for further details.
Monday 11 March 2013
Vue West End cinema, Leicester Square, London
We are looking forward to speaking along with an a collection of Adventurers at the Night of Adventure in London. The event is for charity with all proceeds going to Hope & Homes for Children.
Looks set to be a great night. If anyone is interested in attending you can book tickets here.
Sand2Snow Adventures are delighted to announce the running order for the second annual Sand2Snow Ball for Self Help Africa.
Doors will open at the the iconic Guinness Storehouse at 7 pm giving guests a chance to take a self guided tour of the venue. Upon arrival guests will be greeted with a voucher for a free drink which can be redeemed at Arthur's themed bar on the 5th floor or the spectacular Gravity Bar. This bar boasts a 360 degree vista of the Dublin skyline, where guests can enjoy a drink as a lit-up city looms below them.
Dinner will be served at 8.30 pm in the magnificent Arrol Suite, one of the premier venues in the country. A four course feast inspired by the venue and the famous stout itself will make for a delicious and unique culinary experience. A special valentines surprise awaits the guests.
The powerful Midnight Soul band will kick off the nights entertainment following a raffle and silent auction. They will have guests dancing long into the night before being relieved by our DJ. The night wont end here, however, as the event will switch venues to the Dandelion bar on St Stephens Green. Entry to the club and VIP lounge are both included in the ticket price.
Finally, for those with stamina Sand2Snow Adventures are organising a special priced lunch and drink combo in McGrattans on Baggot Street for the Saturday afternoon. Guests can avail of the special and meet up again with old friends and hopefully a few new ones!
A great night is guaranteed and most important of all you will be helping much needed funds for a truly worthy Charity, Self Help Africa.
Tickets are available for €80 per person or a table of 12 for €900.
Before beginning Silk Roads to Shanghai we naively felt we would have all the hard work completed by the time we reached Yichang. The remaining 1650km of flat river stretching between here and Shanghai would offer time for reflection. A chance to think about the adventure behind us with little in the way of effort lying ahead.
It was an underestimation we had made all those months ago as we cycled out from Istanbul. On both occasions we found ourselves exhausted, cold and in a race against time. On both occasions we needed help and on both occasions we received it.
Warm smiles and selfless gestures have followed us throughout our journey. We have rarely felt alone despite being so far from home. Time and time again we have been looked after and worried over. We have been treated as long lost sons, brothers and friends by households across Asia.
The names below are just a few of the people who made our adventure so special. There are many more we will never see or hear from again who we will never be able to properly thank. To all those strangers who became friends we would like to thank you for making our expedition possible and worthwhile.
- Eric and all the students. Showt, Iran
- Mahdi, Homa and the Milani family. Tabritz, Iran
- Kazim, Sephir + the UFC club. Tehran, Iran
- Paul and Louise Donnelly. Dubai , UAE
- Trish Crooks. Dubai , UAE
- Freeman Murray and everyone at Jaaga and Sandbox. Bangalore, India
- Jeremy Finbar Hayes and the Xu family, Wuhu China
- Brian Murry and Le Cheile. Shanghai, China
- Peter Clarke and Staff at The Kerry Hotel. Shanghai, China
- Austin Gormley and family. Shanghai, China
- King Zhang. Ningbo, China
We reached Shanghai on Wednesday 16th January,10 months after setting out from Istanbul. It has been quite an amazing adventure and finishing has not sunk in just yet. Thanks to everyone who has supported both ourselves and Self Help Africa.
We would like to thank Jeremy Finbar Hayes and the Xu family for the incredible kindness they have shown us over the last two days. Reaching Wuhu on 1st January required us to paddle for 29 of the last 30 days. We were tired to the point of exhaustion and badly in need of a rest, meal and warm bed. After a wonderfully relaxing break we are now restored to full fitness and ready to tackle the final 450km stint to Shanghai.
We hope to paddle the distance in 12 days but are very much at the mercy of a prevailing northernly wind. Only now, after 280 days on the roads and rivers of Asia have we begun to picture concluding the expedition. Wuhu!
In the context of a lifetime the possibilities on this planet are infinite. However lofty such a statement may appear it is without any real profundity. It seems to me self-evident that regardless of the path on which we travel these possibilities are truly boundless and infinite in the sense that even the appreciation of the scantiest few is the work of a lifetime. The limit to what can be experienced is a constraint of our own creation, our own limited imagination. Perhaps it is the curse of adventure but once you have started down this path the vastness of potential experience, often desired experience, becomes obviated in a way that brings to mind that oft repeated truism; knowledge is often knowing less and less about more and more. So I sit nearing the end of this particular possibility knowing so much less about so much more. Rather than detracting a single possibility from the bottomless well we will have toiled merely to further excavate our appreciation, deepening only our own awareness of what we might know. What we might do.
The purpose of this amateur fumbling with philosophy is an attempt to articulate for myself the value and worth of what we have done. In finishing this expedition we will have conquered nothing, exhausted not a single possibility. The pounded tarmac of Turkey, Iran, India and Nepal will be met by many more bicycle tyres. The Tibetan Plateau is no more accessible now than before we ran across it, nor less. The waters of the Yangtze will keep on making their journey from Himalayan glaciers to the Pacific shore long after they have dried from our clothes. The expedition’s beginning and end were and are of our choosing, it’s start and finish lines exist only in our minds. The mountains, rivers, oceans, and deserts of this planet care not a jot for our conquests, descents, ascents and crossings. They are resolute and unmoved by our travails, changing at their own imperceptible pace and on their own terms as they have always done. The possibilities on this planet are indeed endless but as far as our host is concerned, inconsequential. What then of adventure? What then of our adventure?
As it so often does the true question you are asking yourself suddenly seems blatant; why? It cannot be avoided. Deriding those who ask it as incapable of apprehension can quell your own uncertainty for a time, their incomprehension masking your own. But only for a time. Enjoyment and fulfillment in the act are not dependent on an answer and even motivation can be summoned without an understanding. The question, however, remains. It’s answer neither vital nor urgent, yet quietly persistent. And so, three years after first asking myself the question at a similar stage of an expedition I find myself again asking why? Then, as now, I cannot see past six simple words I heard somewhere on the roads, lanes and tracks of Africa, the Middle East and Europe; Not things, but men and women. The value and worth of this journey if any exist, exist only because of people. They exist in the help of friends and family who saw some themselves or valued us enough to back our judgement. They are substantiated by the truly worthwhile and priceless works of a charity who’s creed belies the term. They reside in mothers who encouraged us to continue when every shred of their being wanted us to stop. They can be seen in fathers who made a mockery of the term ‘unsupported’ expedition. Hopefully some can be seen in the eyes of children who saw us passing and maybe saw a few new possibilities themselves. More still lies in the deeds of countless strangers who paused to share a wave or a roof. Why do I do this? Because of the people.
It must have been tough. I found myself thinking of the Ethiopian lady and I only do that when it is. I remember back to cycling on a mountain pass out of Addis Ababa; I was out of shape, struggling and generally feeling sorry for myself. I desperately wanted to stop. In this state I passed a lady walking up the same hill carrying an impossibly large load. She seemed unfazed by the climb, laughing at my odd appearance and making a mockery of the struggle. It is an image that has stayed with me. Whenever I get to thinking times are tough I think of her and all the people like her who have shown us what hard work really is.
I was thinking of her this morning. I heard the alarm from somewhere deep in the recesses of my sleeping bag. I heard it and was immediately filled with dread. Once out of the sleeping bag the cold would envelope me. I was warm and didn't want to leave. I lay thinking about the day that lay ahead.
I imagined fumbling with my swollen hands as I pulled on my damp socks. I pictured holding my breath as I pulled on my filthy t-shirt. The initial forays with changing would be carried out to a chorus of heavy breathing and wincing. My mind would be off as I carried out tasks in auto pilot. Pack away the inside of the tent ,then pack away the tent before waking Maghnus. Next I would collect water, put on the stove, pack up the kayak , eat porridge and carry all my gear to the river.
I felt that if I could just not think about the day ahead until I was paddling I could get through it. I thought this but I lay still. I listened for the signs of wind, wondering if we would have to contend with head-on gusts and waves as we pushed on. Doing the maths I reasoned we had probably averaged 42km per day during the last 19 days of non-stop paddling. It was a reasonable total. If we could do this for the next 23 days we could have a day off. I thought this would cheer me up but it had the opposite effect. Why can’t we have two days off? Three days off and I could paddle to Shanghai. I hated the pressure. After 9 months on the road surely we deserved a little time to relax.
Ok- one day at a time thats all I can think here. Just get today started. Just get on the river and things won’t seem as bleak. My mood lifted. Maybe we would be rewarded by the selfless gestures we had received yesterday afternoon. We could be called aboard another fishing boat for lunch. We could be given Chinese tea, and some steaming hot rice. I pictured sitting in that little kitchen drinking tea. Yesterday hadn’t been all that bad. The locals really were coming to our aid now. It’s like they suddenly sensed we needed it. They were helping us along, helping us grit our teeth.
I thought of that Ethiopian lady. I pictured her smile and rediscovered mine. Unzipping the sleeping bag to begin another day on the Yangtze.
The final 1700 km of the Yangtze stretching from Yichang to Shanghai begins immediately downstream from the notorious Three Gorges Dam. After this point the river slows significantly as it meanders its way towards the East China Sea. With our visas expiring around the middle of January we worried this section would require an ambitious target of 40km a day.
We have pondered this dilemma for quite some time and were delighted when Winner kayaks approached us with an offer of using their sea kayaks for this section. Our Alpacka packrafts had been the perfect mode of transport for the upper Yangtze and our new sea kayaks have been superb so far on the lower river.
We are currently 11 days into this section and are approaching the 1000km to go mark. With the new kayaks we are now averaging 44km a day and could even buy ourselves a day off for Christmas.
Thanks to Winner kayaks for coming on board as sponsors and also to Jack Wolfskin who recently offered to sponsor the Gossamer tents we have used since leaving Istanbul 9 months ago.