This event popped up on my Facebook feed - it appears Facebook algorithms are recognising me as someone interested in exploring. Things have got serious...
Curious, I clicked on it and was surprised to see so many amazing speakers in one place. I forwarded it to Rob saying I don't really know what this is but I think we should go. So we booked our tickets and, last Friday after work, drove about an hour north of London, to arrive at Home Farm Glamping, Elstree. Arriving in pleasant countryside on a warm evening, we walked through a field of long grass where we exchanged our tickets for wristbands and made our way into the main area. This felt a bit like a festival. Quite an upmarket one, mind you, with artisan pizzas, craft beers and cider, and the nicest portaloos I've ever been in. This is a slight scene change from Rob and my escapades at Global Gathering a fair few years back!
Having grabbed a drink and, not really knowing whether to mingle, we walked down a mown path to where a small stage and tent had been setup for the speakers and, afterwards, the band. There was also the bonfire (hence the name). Deciding mingling was probably not going to happen right yet, we grabbed a pew on a hay bale and, did some people watching, and waited for the first speaker.
Ed Stafford, who was hosting the event, kicked things off. In 2010, Ed became the first man to walk the length of the Amazon River from the source to the sea. He walked for 860 days! No-one had ever done what he attempted. I haven't seen his documentary but I'm definitely going to watch it now.
Next were Ness Knight and Laura Bingham. Laura (who is married to Ed) told of her adventures of cycling through South America with no money, while Ness told of cycling through the oldest desert in the world, the Namib Desert in Namibia.
Spike Reid spoke about standup paddle boarding down the length of the Ganges, a story he told captivatingly. Rob and I knew of Spike because of the tragic events that he witnessed in Svalbard when leading a school trip out there. A polar bear somehow got into the camp and attacked and killed one of the boys, Horatio Chappell. Spike suffered horrific injuries himself trying to save the pupil before killing it with a bullet to the brain.
After that, incredible ocean rower, Olly Hicks, (Rob's man-crush) spoke next about some of his explorer heroes, many of whom had died, leaving families and loved ones behind. His point was that despite the tragedies, the families generally felt proud of their lost explorer and would never have stood in the way of their dream. Olly is raising money to fund his next venture, to circumnavigate the world by solo rowing the Southern Oceans - a truly formidable and unforgiving place.
We have been lucky to meet Olly a couple of years ago when we were first planning our idea to see if he thought it was possible. He has since given us a lot advice to help us plan it which we're very grateful for.
The Coxless Crew, four girls who rowed the Pacific Ocean, gaining two Guiness World records while they were at it, were up next, being interviewed by Pip Stewart. They have a documentary that is on Netflix, I definitely need to watch this too. Although having spoken to a couple of the girls, they did say that although it looks like they had a lot of fun, for the most part it was blood, sweat and tears!
Lastly, the man himself, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who was sitting a couple of metres from us on another hay-bale, spoke to us about how Transglobe came to be. I should have mentioned that this was organised by the Transglobe Trust. Transglobe was the name of the mammoth expedition that Sir Ran took to circumnavigate the world by the Greenwich Meantime vertical, thereby crossing both poles, without flying.
It was a really interesting and thought-provoking night for us. We managed to grab a quick chat with Olly Hicks and two of the girls from the Coxless Crew. The girls gave some really interesting advice and hopefully we'll speak to them again soon. It was hard to get a word in edgeways with the speakers as they were mobbed by everyone after the talks. Sir Ran, we'll have to meet another day!