Friday, September 26, 2008

What can one man do?

Its been a crazy week for me, again. I witnessed a head on collision between two cars only a couple of feet in front of me. The passengers were ok but it got me thinking how happy I am about how I am living and what I have planned incase it all ends as quickly as that crash happened. Emotionally I am getting tired of being so excited about my trip. I was extremely tempted to just jump on my bike and go but I remembered I needed to get it serviced so I dropped the little beauty in for a pampering. I had 3 days off work in a row this week and wanted to take it easy on my legs for once so decided not to do too much cycling. Luckily Orla had a couple of days off before uni started so we went for a walk up around Bray head. Topics were varied from, nature (me) to cooking (Orla)! I paid attention to her directions, stolen from dutch gold, on how to make sauces as I recon some of my dishes over the next while will definetly benefit from a bit of spicing up! We stopped and had lunch in a pretty scenic spot facing south looking out to sea and down the coast to Wicklow town. It was right then and there that I was tempted to do the ole yawn trick but I felt as Dara has suffered enough this year with Bray Emmets without me stealing Orla away on my bike.

I took a ramble along the Dargle and found what I think is the most scenic spot in Ireland. Obviously claims like this are huge but I am not afraid to make outlandish claims like that! Ha anyway it was just perfect. It was late afternoon, the light just crept through the branches and created a mystical atmosphere on the bend of the river surrounded by steep cliffs. I suppose it was the combination of the light, the bend and my imagination. It could of been anywhere in the world. I should really get a decent camera and brush up on my photographic eye cause the picture doesnt do it justice.
America is falling apart from every angle, China successfully sends men into space for a space walk. Great publicity stunt and only a month after the Olympics. I would say the PR men in China are sipping a fine cognac and laughing to themselves how quickly they are catching up (if they have not already gone into the lead). Brush up on your Chinese my friends.

To find out the answer to to my posts title just watch the video below.

Time and time again someone will push the boundaries back so that was impossible last week is just ordinary this week. Obviously flying over the channel is not ordinary but in 20 years its possible we will all be flying like that haaa. It was inspiring to watch Yves Rossy fly through the air, not just glide. One man had the world watching, not two teams of overpaid footballers. One man, alone and flying. Clearly he had a huge team of supprt in building and preparing for it but when it all boils down to it and he steps out of the plane and flying solo there is not much the "team" can do and he relies only on his skills. For me it easily ranks as one of the greatest achievements of mankind.

It is the dreamers that inspire and motivate me. The people who say "why not". Not the people who say "sure what can one man do".

Nothing is impossible

Friday, September 19, 2008

Borge Ousland

Last night I went to a talk in Dublin by Norweigan Borge Ousland who is one of the greatest polar explorers of our time. It was a very interesting talk about all his expeditions to the North/South poles, Patagonia and even Everest. Some of his pictures were breathtaking and his video clips were an eye opener to the extent of the conditions they faced.

The most insiring part of the lecture was about how he travelled to the North Pole in the middle of winter with Mike Horn, who wins my vote for most hardcore traveller, in 24 hours of darkness. He was the only person who thought it was possible, everyone else said it could not be done. It was facinating to hear his train of thought and how he confronts challenges. There is something really cool about hearing people ramble and say what they feel. Alot of people hold back on what they say and make sure it will portray the right image and attitude.

One of his earlier points on dealing with Polar Bears was that if you could see them coming from a distance it was no problem, now in the dark it was a different story. Who ever was the back was more than likely the one who would get a tap on the shoulder from the polar bear, so they split the time at the back fairly evenly! Each day, 6 times on average, they would have to cross open water by putting on a dry suit and swimming across pulling and pushing the sleds.

When the talk was finished question time was funny. Some old guy in the audience asked him why try climb Everest even though some 2000 people had climbed it already. Even though he had already explained why he wanted to in his section on Everest he patiently said "because its the highest mountain in the world". The old guy was clearly looking for some convoluted answer and was not happy with his reply haaaa. Borge did not make it to the summit as his oxygen bottle had a leak and he would not have had enough to make it to the summit and back safely so turned around after 2 months getting that far and only 200 meters from the summit.

The worrying thing was the evidence of global warming, the pictures he has in his collection from 20 years ago of the thickness of the ice are shocking. In the next couple of years there will be no ice at the north pole during the summer. This will have some serious consequences for the wildlife and on the global scale for all of us.

On one of his solo trips to the North Pole he finally reached the pole after 2 months when he heard a helicopter. Out jumps a Saudi Prince, he had only left the base camp 30 minutes ago and laughed when he heard how long it took Borge to get there!

I have always enjoyed reading about expeditions to the poles so getting to hear personal stories from a true explorer was a delight. How do you take a dump at -40 celcius? hmmm 10 times faster than you normally would.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I finally knocked the bastard off...

Where to begin with my first post in my blog eh? I was going to wait until my big journey began before starting this blog but I think it already started October 5th 2005 when I left for australia.

As the title of my url says, I have skinny legs. Which I am constantly reminded of by friends, friends of friends, family, work mates, girlfriends and anyone elses who feels they know me enough to get away with slagging them.

"what do you mean cycle, you?, haa sure look how skinny your legs are!"

"you are feckin mad, you are too skinny"

(lying naked in bed with a girl, which is rare) "oh my god your legs are actually skinnier than mine!"

But these legs have never let me down, scuba diving, snowboarding, running, cycling or hiking. You see they have a secret weapon, my stubborn brain never letting them stop even when they ache, sun burnt, muddy, cut or freezing. So I decided a few months back to leave Ireland by bicycle and just go wherever I wanted. Yes, it is probably the worst thing to pick for me, it would be easier by train or even fairly cheaply by flying Ryanair all over. There are two reasons why I decided to cycle.

One: Because I like to travel, I like seeing new places, getting lost and finding yourself again. Seeing all sorts of strange and beautiful creatures. To see things most people will never see. To live free of societies pressures in nature. But to do this you gotta go slowly and trust me there are not many modes of travel slower than me cycling a bike. To do it extremely cheap in a tent to make it last as long as possible before I have to work again.

Two: For the challenge, to get stronger, to find out what I can do with these skinny legs. To take the next step in my evolution.

I leave on the 12th of October, even if its raining!

So while I tick off the days on the calender till I leave I am not gonna sit around on my super smoothe ass and do nothing. So I got out of bed at lunch time today and decided to go for a wander up Little Sugarloaf mountain in Bray but believe it or not it was raining so I said I better not risk leaving the house and getting wet. Haaa there are so few days of the year when it is not raining here in Ireland that if you acted like that you would do nothing. All my time living in Bray and I have never been up the Little Sugarloaf, terrible.

So off I went and as usual I was not sure of where to go so I just headed in the general direction, up past the McNamees house, past the scene of one of the most (only) horrendous wasp attacks of our childhood, past where we tried unsuccessfully as kids to catch pheasants using fishing line and raisins. Blindly walking along a dirt road through the mist, cracking twigs and scaring rabbits, pheasants and kestrels away. It was typical Irish "rain" hanging around the hill, not really falling yet soaking me.

I got to what looked like a trail off the road and up the hill. That trail stopped after a few yards but I continued anyway. Eating blackberries and half tempted to see if any of the crazy little mushrooms had any magic in them! The forrest cleared and I could see past the open space and into what looked like another wooded area that felt like the right direction. With no trail to follow I was making my own by standing on the thorny blackberry bushes which were taking lumps out of my beautifully formed ankles. So I was at the point on hill walks where the bush is getting too thick to follow and I have a couple of choices. Turn around and retrace my steps and find another easier way. Or convince myself of something that is blatantly not true "sure it looks like its thinning out over there". Never one to turn back I pushed on. The blackberry bushes where now up past my naked knees and busy painting detailed dotted red lines like roads on a map all over my legs. Minutes later I was kicking my legs higher than I thought was flexibly possible by me just so I could get them high enough to bring my sandled foot down on top of the branches that where now five feet high. It only took 30 minutes to get through haaa.

Now for what I hoped was the sugar on the Little Sugarloaf. If sugar is the worst ankle breaking territory of all time then I found a ton of sugar. A few hundred metres of slippery, unsteady, perfectly designed ankle breaking rocks later and I had summited one of Brays skyline "mountains". I did it all unsupported, without food, water, phone, supplemental oxygen, sherpas, camera crew and with no view as the mist was really thick haaa. But I did get hazy glimpses of the peaks of the other hills around, which gave a surreal feeling of being at the top of a vast Tibetan mountain range. I could almost picture little Tenzin sitting on the other peak meditating. Another unexpected all time life moment provided not too far from my house. On my way back down I decided against retracing my steps precisely as my legs didnt have enough skin left to deal with round two with the blackberry bushes from hell so I stayed on the trail. Turned out I saved myself a 10 minute walk on the trail by taking my trip through the blackberry part haaa.

No matter how big or small the goals I set in my life are, I always get more out of the journey than the accomplishment. I got some quality quiet time away from noisy cars and people and away from day time TV and into nature. Only a 20 minute walk from my house and I am with the animals, well maybe not with, but at least I can see them haaa. Its not exactly the vast eco system of Wellington diving but there is so much beautiful Irish wildlife and charming countryside right on my doorstep! Not to be counting down the days but its only about 25 to go before I leave. There is so much I want to do around here before I leave but the nice thing is it will all still be here when I get back eventually so I have decided not to do a big tour around before I leave.

"What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from." T.S. Eliot

I am not leaving to get to a particular spot on the map. I want to go to every single place in the world so naming any as an end goal would be pointless. I just wanna get out there and see it all, have some (alot) adventure, not have to work for a while, to live a life less ordinary. I dont want to just fly past on a bus, I wanna be a part of the view. To find myself in a place like Wellington, not speaking geographically but to be truly happy with how I am living and surrounded by amazing people like Halena, Mike, Tony and Libby.

So I wait, hiking, cycling, swimming and working in a degrading job as a barman. Preparing mentally to have nothing but my bike and tent and some money. To cycle along slowly, dropping in on friends to have a wash, steering clear of work and hopefully continue being as happy as I am now and finding myself in another beautiful place.