Nov 17 2009

Explore 2009 at the Royal Geographical Society


Rough Edge were fortunate enough to be at the RGS’s Explore weekend, which was fantastic. So many people with so many amazing and creative ideas, not just about their expeditions and journeys, but also how to tell people about them and how to make each of them have a positive impact.

More than one of the main speakers talked aout travelling with humility – this is what we try to do; from now we will ingrain it into the Rough Edge philosophy.

If anyone asks you to Explore another year and you are at all interested in the world, whether that is China, or anywhere – just GO!

While the rest of London walked or drove past the doors with the gloom of winter nights and global depression hanging over them, the RGS was a bright shining light of optimism, where anything was possible.

Thanks to all the wonderful people we met and we will be in touch to see how these brilliant new connections can evolve.

Rough Edge, Adventure, Logistics, Breathtaking, DofE Gold, Expedition, Wales,

Sep 23 2009

It’s all about balance

Yesterday was an equinox. An equal number of daylight and nightime hours all over the world. Yesterday was also the day the DofE signed off Rough Edge as an Approved Activity Provider. On a day of perfect balance.

It has been a long journey so far, but it has all been worth it and it is fantastic to be here. Now the even harder work starts.

Thanks again to everyone who is involved so far – this is truly only something for those committed to doing some good and there’s a lot of us already, so spread the word and let’s watch it grow.

And now here’s our first official sign from DofE… Now all we need is an office window to stick it onto 🙂 (On gaining DofE AAP status 23 September 2009)


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DofE Gold, Expedition, Breathtaking, Wales,

Jul 23 2009

This bit’s all buses

So, Lijiang is as I left it – packed with tourists. I find the Carnation Inn again and I’m met with smiles and a warm welcome from the family there. I repack my rucsac and I can'[t quite believe just how full it is again. Mr Carnation Inn organises me a ticket to get me to Kunming – I am to take a sleeper bus…
Finding my way to the bus station for a 7pm departure the sky clouds over and there is monumental thunder and lightning and it rains, like really rains! Once at the bus station however, confusion reigns as it turns out I have been taken to the wrong bus station. Great. But thanks in no small way to the incredibly efficient ticket office clerk, for somehow she manages to track down my bus, which by now (7.40) must have already left it’s departure point and she redirects it and it comes to pick me up – awesome. However, while I have been waiting I have been admiring the extremely smart Volvo and Daewoo buses at the bus station – feeling reassured by their gleaming paintwork and efficient looking drivers and staff. As my true bus pulls in two scruffy bus drivers approach and wave me towards a much less attractive looking bus and – alarmingly – thrust Y21 back at me saying I have overpaid. This is not the most reassuring start to an overnight journey in the rain back down through the mountains of Yunnan, but hey ho – let’s see.
There are no really good pictures of this bit, just some video I took in the dead of night to give an impression of what it is like crammed onto the top bunk of a sleeper bus on a “bed” that is about 8 inches wide and surrounded by 40 other people in similarly cramped bunks all of whom seem to be suffering from chest infections. This is one journey I don’t want to repeat. Here’s dawn over the lake in Kunming. I was extremely glad to arrive here and I really didn’t care how tired I was. (Lijiang to Kunming on a “sleeper” bus 21/22 July)

Rough Edge, Adventure, Logistics, Breathtaking, Wales,

DofE Gold, Expedition,

Jul 20 2009

Driving safe

It takes about an hour for me to relax in the realisation that Dave is an awesomely good driver and knows the road extremely well. Indeed he doesn’t just know the road, he seems to know everyone on it too. His skill is appreciated as I take millions of pics and much video (to be edited & uploaded once home). The moving pictures, I am sure, will capture the drama of this magnificent journey best, but here is what a driver on this mountain road faces as he hurtles through settlements, villages, roadworks and farms:

Children, handcarts, grandmas, yaks, monks, donkeys, bikes, pigs, tractors, goats and laundry – all these can be on the road at any time. Hence Dave adopts the ‘hoot & go’ approach. You hoot and go. Simple. And it is hoot & go for overtaking too – although this takes a little longer as a passenger to feel comfortable about. In all we are in each other’s company for close on 5 hours and he is one of the most skilful drivers I have been driven by. He gets me back down to Shangri La safely, but fast, skilfully, but cautiously and I thank Dave for that.

This is one of those epic journeys that is impossible to bring to life here, but I have picked out some random best bits for now – there will be loads more to come, given bit of time. One breathtaking ride. (On the road from Deqin 20 July)

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DofE Gold, Expedition,

Jul 20 2009

Driving sarf

With only four days to go before my flight leaves Kunming over 800km away and knowing that the first part of this mammoth journey south is back across the awesome pass, six hours to the main road at Shangri La, I decide that the best plan is to leave Deqin and devote the right amount of time to this place on another visit. This trip has all been about making connections and throughout I have been blessed with extraordinary help from so many people. None less than Lily in Shangri La. As far as bus tickets are concerned I have missed the bus, but one call to Lily and an hour later she has found a reliable driver to deliver me safely back to Shangri La on the first leg of the homeward trip. He will come and find me at the hotel and we will head off across the mountains directly.

When he arrives, Dave already strikes me as a very jolly and helpful person (sorry to call him Dave but in the few hours we know each other he only says his Chinese name once when I ask and I promptly forget it – and anyway I’d have little or no idea how to spell it). Dave seems to be a minor celebrity as we head out of town, stopping to pick up a couple of bottles of ice tea for the journey and for Dave to gobble down three dumplings and we’re off. We are in a relatively smart and seemingly well maintained Passat – all is good. I put on my seatbelt. We head out of town up the dust-under-random-construction road and the sun and the mountains and the sheer bigness of it all combine into the drive of a lifetime. (On leaving Deqin 20 July)

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DofE Gold, Expedtion,

Jul 6 2009

A truck, some mud, Little Dog and me

It takes nearly two hours and seemingly endless telephone negotiation (mostly by Xiao Bing with interceptions from the very loud and forceful mountain warden’s wife, the most notable of which, “no not you, you fool, your father!” when demanding someone sends a vehicle to take us all down the 2 hour mud road). Eventually we hear the reassuring sound of a horn and we head back up to the road.
They’ve only gone and got the truck stuck in the mud. Bloody marvellous. It’s raining again.
There is much heaving, huffing, puffing and general to do.
Just to recap, now the party going down the mountain has grown still further: Here’s the cast:
Xiao Bing, the Master, DanDan, ShweShwe, the mountain warden’s wife, the mountain warden’s son (in a basket), Little Dog and me. Oh and the three guys who have arrived and got the truck stuck.
We get the truck free, we all board. Strangely although DanDan and I are paying for this ride, it is he and I along with Xiao Bing, the Master and Little Dog who have to travel in the back of the truck. Anyhow off we set. Bouncing (a lot) through the rain and mist, heading for the foot of the mountain. Along the way Little Dog finds a safe haven and rests on my boot. At the small village half way down we are given sweets to keep us going – the Master takes charge of doling these out. It is a strange journey and it takes ages. Little Dog cradled at my feet and the Master standing with his brass staff at the front of the back of the truck (if you know what I mean) looking through the gap above the truck’s cab. It seems endless, but finally we are down and on the level road alongside the lake. Here we are going to find the boat to take us all to Dali – hurrah!
PS – there was no boat. We waited another hour in a village and ended up back on a public bus – having said goodbye to the mountain warden’s wife and the mountain warden’s son (in a basket). The bus took us back to Dali – and we all said our goodbyes, me, Xiao Bing, DanDan, ShweShwe, the Master and Little Dog (in a bag). The end of an extraordinary little trip. God I’m tired. (Dali 5 July)

Rough Edge, Adventure, Logistics, mountain, navigation training, worldwide, trekking, Scotland

DofE Gold, Expedition,

Jul 6 2009

The cave, a fire and some old potatoes

So, here we are on the sacred moutain Mu Xiang Ping (or as the Master says, Chicken Foot Lotus Mountain). The good thing about all the effort to get to this place is there is no entrance charge and therefore no ‘tourist’ facilities (like chair lifts, or beautifully manicured paths with picnic areas). The challenging thing is that it is all a bit random. Unlike mountains in the UK, stripped long ago of their trees and vegetation, this mountain like many others in Yunnan is a living place. There are probably ten other cow boys – like the one helping us. Everyone offers us food or tea, or just a place to rest. If we wanted to, we would be welcome to stay. There are communities and they are welcoming of any visitor. As an outsider it feels strange, but it is just the way it is – and the welcome is one of genuine warmth. Anyway, back to our cow boy and the continuing journey. We walk for about an hour and here he points to a shack in the hillside. All around are stunning views, the shack has a homemade gate and a long-deserted vegetable patch. We go into this abandoned homestead, the farmer boy bids us goodbye and says he will bring us food tomorrow morning. Within no time, Xiao Bing has lit a fire in the small ‘fire room’ and found some seeded potatoes that he proceeds to cook and eat. (He also finds some of the monk’s abandoned rice store, but he fears there is too much mouse shit in it for it to be edible – hmmm, nice) (Mu Xiang Ping 4 July)

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