Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Power of Power Naps

The last couple of weeks have been an adventure of a small kind, but good preparation for big one later this year. A short trip around the UK covering about one tenth of the total distance to Mongolia came with a few salutary lessons. In a former life your correspondent sold medical equipment in England for a living. Long before carbon footprinting was even a concept he did his best to cover as much of the country each week as possible. Being a young buck with a Marks & Spencer suit, a Samsonite briefcase and little experience, the old-timers in the company gave him some good advice. “Always fill your car up the night before so you’re not faffing around in the morning when you run into a traffic delay,” they said. “Double check your appointments for the week and reschedule ahead of time. Make sure that you get enough sleep and pull over if you’re tired.” This last piece of advice saved my life on more than one occasion. Thrashing a Vauxhall Cavalier up and down the motorways became an almost pleasing routine back in 1984. In an era before cell phones a busy day was bookended by time for reflection as the miles whizzed by on my way home. 
Today things have changed a bit. Speed cameras have taken the place of jam sandwiches (police cars with their distinctive horizontal stripe) as the primary means of controlling the 'ton-up boys.' Coffee is now drinkable at the rest stops and the web available 24x7, wherever you are. Yet, there’s nothing quite like that 20 minute power nap in the middle of the afternoon. It’s so much better than driving off the road at 70 miles an hour.   

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Adventurists Film Festival

A triffic time had by all at the Adventurists Film Festival today. By extending a personal trip to London by a couple of days, the chance to take in the hilarity and real art of expedition film making was unmissable. All the films were riveting in their own way and the judges had clearly done their homework. One particular standout in the Public category (i.e. not from an Adventurists adventure) was, Across Europe in a Paper Boat, directed by Julius Markevicius from Lithuania. Using 6mm plywood, Julius and a couple of friends built a small boat in their apartment and glued it together using epoxy and fiberglass. Surprisingly seaworthy, they powered her with a four horse outboard and proceeded to navigate her, almost non-stop, from Belarus to Rotterdam via the lakes, rivers, and canals of Europe. Julius’ commentary was dead-pan hilarious. You can see the all the films at The Adventurists Film Festival web site. 
Ed Stafford, the bloke that walked the entire length of the Amazon in two and half years, provided us insight into what it takes to meet a modern challenge including determination and a good partner. His partner, Cho, joined him at a particularly dangerous point as Ed made his way through indigenous Peru, then stayed with him until they reached the Atlantic ocean. 
In addition, there were a couple of educational sessions centered around making your own documentary. Perhaps the two most useful pieces of advice were 1) ensure that you get good sound and 2) communicate with your audience. From a technical standpoint, winners used everything from $100 Flip video cameras to sophisticated digital SLR’s. It appears the success of a movie like this lies as much in the editing as anything else. 
With so many Adventurists on hand, there was expert advice available. Turns out that not only is the Nissan Micra the most popular car for starting the rally, it’s also the one that crosses the finish line more than any other - largely due to their popularity in Eastern Asia and the availability of spare parts. The roads in Kazakhstan are vastly variable, the ones in Russia generally predictable. We shouldn’t miss the Altai region or attempt the northern route across Mongolia if we want a prayer of doing this in less than eight weeks. Topped off with Hendrick’s Gin and a set of three official car stickers it was a splendid day.