I would probably blame my Uncle Dan for taking me rambling on the fells and dales of Yorkshire as a teenager. I certainly thank him for offloading his old tent, stove and, most importantly, his orange plastic cup. This, The Mug, has been my constant outdoor companion for over 35 years now.
University was where the bug really bit and I graduated as a very average climber, kayaker, trekker and student; attributes that remain today.
A 1987 ski expedition in the Indian Himalaya began a long love affair with journeys through those big mountains; particularly in winter, particularly on ski (although occasionally on foot and bike). This culminated in a number of major expeditions including Kashmir to Kulu, a 600km, 35 day journey across the western Himalaya, a solo traverse of the Biafo-Hispar glaciers in the Karakoram of Pakistan and a traverse of the eastern Indian Himalaya from KInnaur to the Garwhal which included an ascent of 6400m Kalanag.
In between getting lost and arrested in Uganda on an expedition to the Ruwenzori, the fabled ‘Mountains of the Moon’, and other journeys, the time came to discover more of Australia.
City2City began innocuously enough. It was Easter 1997 and, lying in my sleeping bag under a rock overhang in the Budawangs, I dreamt of skiing the maximum length of the Australian snow country. From the most southerly snows of Victoria at Mt Baw Baw to Kiandra in NSW. By morning this ski tour had developed somewhat. Why not start at Flinders Street Station in Melbourne and finish at the Opera House in Sydney? Fill in the rest of the journey by foot, kayak and bike.
Melbourne2Sydney was all it was going to be; a single journey. But on the outskirts of Sydney, 52 days after leaving Melbourne through the winter of 1997, this lark was too good to stop. Why not link each of the Australian state capitals by following the most interesting and challenging human powered routes? In 2004 I kayaked into Hobart having completed City2City; 7 journeys, 25,000km, 543 days of the best mountains, rivers, deserts and coast. There could have been no better way to see Australia.
- Melbourne2Sydney – 1997, 1500km, 52 days
- Melbourne2Adelaide – 1998, 1940km, 45 days
- Brisbane2Darwin – 1999, 5800km, 105 days
- Sydney2Brisbane – 2000, 1850km, 49 days
- Perth2Adelaide – 2001, 6030km, 111 days
- Perth2Darwin – 2003, 6300km, 112 days
- Melbourne2Hobart – 2004, 1580km, 69 days
Many shorter journeys followed, often by bike, to Mongolia, India, East Timor, Botswana and beyond. By 2010 Europe was drawing me back every year; perhaps I was going soft – the sweet life in Italy, France…
But plans were afoot. I’m not sure why the idea of a circumnavigation of the Mediterranean came about but it would undoubtedly have involved red wine and a manila folder. It started with a thought to kayak the whole way but, much as I love kayaking, the idea of sitting on my butt for 15 months or so meant the folder kept being put away. Then, briefly excited by adding the highest mountain in each country to the mix, the folder was opened; only to gather dust on the realisation the journey would take over 2 years and I’d still be sitting down too much.
Some time around 2012 I realised the Centenary of the Anzac landings at Gallipoli, Turkey would be occurring on 25 April 2015. This commemoration, a huge event in Australia and New Zealand, gave my idea the fillip it needed; a link to my adopted home. Why not start at Gallipoli on 26 April 2014 and complete my circumnavigation in a year by 25 April 2015. The manila folder never closed again and mediterr année was born. A 600km kayak circumnavigation of the Mediterranean island of Corsica in 2013 gave me a taste of that sea and reassured me I was on the right track.
Ultimately 14,000km, 17 countries and 363 days of sea kayaking, walking, ocean rowing and biking became a journey that exceeded expectations on every level. There could be no better way to see the Mediterranean.
My book Mediterranean – A year around a charmed and troubled sea tells the story. Check out some reviews and order here. 10 Minutes, a short film of the rowing section by a talented young Greek film-maker, can be viewed here
There are plenty more journeys to come; some ‘short’, others rather long. 2018 saw a return to the big mountains on skis with an exploration of the Fann Mountains of Tajikistan in Central Asia; believed to be the first winter traverse of this range.