Friday, 13 November 2015

Christmas promotion

Welcome to anyone visiting to buy a copy of my novel. Additional photos can be found on: America - Through a veil of tears (Fb)

Please use the payment button below, fill in the relevant details and place your order. There is space to include a personalised message, which I'm happy to add alongside my signature (contents of message are at the discretion of the author). Please ensure correct address is included with order.

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Thursday, 24 May 2012

Book release at last

At last, the official release of the long awaited book. It will be available to buy from 1st June 2012, !

ISBN: 978-0-9572645-0-2 

Cost: £9.99 + P&P

Book signing venues:

Bangor Public Library - Saturday 9th June, 9.30 - 13.00
Cafe Caban, Bryn Refail, Nr Llanberis - Sunday 10th June, 10.00 - 15.00
Blue Sky Cafe, High St, Bangor - Monday 11th June, 10.00 - 15.00

It will be available from any book supplier, so ordering can be done at your local bookstore or the large town centre chainstore. Of course by ordering it from a store you'll save P&P, but it will take a while for the order to go through. I'm urging people to buy it from the on-line distributor simply because I cover more of my costs this way. Having self published it's my own money invested in the book, and the retail suppliers take such a large cut of the cover price it can actually mean I lose money on every book sold through them. 

It was never my intention to be finalising the process of writing as I started my latest trip. Keeping clarity of mind on one event while trying to focus on another isn't really my forte, I'm a male, we're hopeless at multi-tasking. But I did manage it, while travelling I wrote the final section and liaised with the appropriate professionals. As my book got steadily closer to completion I continued increasing the distance on my overland journey from the UK into Asia. As so often happens things didn't exactly pan out the way I wanted. But I did manage to travel overland all the way to Sulawesi, Indonesia. Much of the journey was done by bike, but not the one I set off on. We parted company after crossing Europe the Russian steppes and the Gobi desert. But this story is told elsewhere: Two Wheels and Prayer Wheels - My Tibetan odyssey

Getting this book to the stage of it being in print is a major achievement for me, under the circumstances it's been an effort at times, but at every step of the way it's been progress in my own personal development. This isn't the sort of progress we can measure, and often it isn't even one we're consciously aware of. I won't call myself lucky to have found a means by which I could face the multitude of demons that arose through the events of 2007 & 2008, I've come to learn to feel proud of the way I dealt with it. For me I've gone full circle, relived every moment of that momentous experience, and rounded it off by publishing my first book about that profound journey. It was always meant to be my first attempt at writing a book, that's why we posed for the local press, made it into the Daily Post. It was meant to inspire people, to use our experience to bring excitement into the lives of others. How could I ever have imagined the outcome? If nothing else I'm told by everyone how inspirational my story is, I hope my writing does it credit as it is a story worth telling.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

A new episode in my life

And so, at last, I've got my new blog site up and running (Two wheels and Prayer wheels - My Tibetan Odyssey), there's even a first post entered there. Please excuse the rather plain, boring presentation, it will be sorted as soon as Google solve the administration problems they have at present. It now feels odd to be signing off from this quite lengthy blog. I would never have imagined continuing for so long, but it's given me immense pleasure most of the time. For me it's been a lifeline, a release, a sounding ground and therapy. Not only has it given me pleasure, it's encourage me to put more effort into literary creativity. That in itself is almost like a new lease of life, it's given me more reason to get out there and explore life, so I can write about it and share my experience with others.

Probably the biggest change right now is deciding not to use my KLR650, with only 6 weeks before setting off I've gone and bought a BMW F650 GS DAKAR. I may have gone mad, but I don't think so. It may involve a hell of a lot more work in preparation, but I like to think the end result will be far fewer problems likely with my mode of transport. And of course I was going to have to strip a reasonable amount off it, just to see where everything is, how you disassemble it and what precise tools are needed. It's a steep learning curve, maybe I've bitten off more than I can chew. As departure approaches, I'm actually becoming calmer. Everything is in hand, and what isn't I have no control over, so I shouldn't worry about those aspects.

Monday, 21 March 2011

My brain hurts!

Never in my days of travelling have I had to organise so thoroughly before going away. This logistics of preparation for this next overland trip are staggering. Which in itself would be off putting. Combined with my extremely shifty mood, a pervading lethargy and a constant stream of problems it is becoming a nightmare. And I don't want to sit down and rant onto my blog, which I can be slightly prone to doing. Am I doing everything wrong? Do I have mug stamped across my forehead? Am I a victim waiting for shit to happen to me? I never would have answered any of these questions with a resounding yes. Now I'm not so sure! It is with apprehension that my departure draws ever nearer. It isn't overwhelming, but I've had my moments; being unable to lift the bike when it fell over knocked my confidence somewhat. The occasion also initiated an evening of wondering just what the hell I thought I was doing, only doom and gloom lay in undertaking this forthcoming journey. If I can't even lift my bike off a garage forecourt what hope do I have of riding across Mongolia, round Tibet. I'm under no illusions here, I'm not superhuman, my reserves are low, I can't see how the hell I can cope with anything going wrong.

But I will cope, it's what I do! It isn't as if I could pick up the bloody bike when I dropped it on numerous occasions when riding the Americas. I've started pre-thinking the problems, so I have at least a plan A. I've dumped off the gorgeous Aluminium panniers and top box, I'm going lightweight. Between putting the finishing touches to the book, organising visas and preparing the bike, I'm pretty busy most the time. There's been a gap of a week between the first paragraph and this one, a big difference in my outlook. Things have been put more into perspective, I'd be more disappointed if I don't even try than if I screw up making the effort. Numerous small faults have plagued the bike, it's been stripped naked countless times. Annoying in ways, but invoked a calm pleasure in systematically working out the problems. It's reassuring that I can work so easily on the beast, I know the damned thing inside and out, literally. Alternative bikes have been checked out on ebay, researching specs on different models, seeing what modifications I'd need to do for the trip. None will give me better than what I've got, all are taller, heavier, more complicated. More importantly, if it all goes wrong at any stage, I can kick this one in the ditch and walk away from it.

Can I say I'm on top of everything? No, not really! There is so much to do, so little time to do it, but at least I'm rising to the occasion now. At last the final chapter of the book has been finished, now to proofread it. This has already been done to a certain extent as I originally wrote it, some chapters have been extensively rewritten. Now for the search to get it published, which I'd be more than pleased if some well wisher out there suddenly wrote offering to publish it for me. Then again, since when has life been a fairy tale, Brothers Grimm more like it. Having only just allowed myself to consider the last chapter finished, it's slowly developing into relief, though not jubilation yet. Long lists of possible publishers blur before my eyes, but one by one they are either dismissed or earmarked for reference. I should put the pressure on and make first contact, but I still have to proofread it all, write a quick epilogue (haha) and then a synopsis. There again, I could just pay my dues and self publish. Which I'm loath to do, I want my book published because it's work putting into print. I believe it's worth publishing, on its own merit, I believe it's well written and worth reading. I just want that chance to prove it!

It's strange, for coming on four years I've been writing this blog. It started on such a phenomenal high, held so much promise, yet plummeted to the deepest depths. I guess that was never the real story, it was supposed to be, I so wish it had been. The events and changes during that time are still hard to comprehend in one single train of thought. In my own head finishing my book is the conclusion of those events, the next chapter of my life begins when I set off again, it's another adventure, another story, another life. Though for me it doesn't just change like that, I still continue each day from where I left off the previous night. Whether I write at this web address or another, there is no line of embarkation. I hope there is a sense of a fresh start, but I'm not banking on it. Of course I don't want to suddenly go decimal on you all, so I'd better start thinking of a new blog site and get the address sorted.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Back to basics!

Phew, returning home seems to have happened with very little palaver. Leaving Ohm Beach was done without any safety margin as far as time was concerned, I caught a mid-day train to get to Goa, a motorcycle Taxi to the Airport, then had a seven hour wait. Another wait at Delhi airport turned out to be for 15 hrs, and away we went, only three hours late. Aren't I ever glad I had warm clothes handy, two thermal layers and a Rab jacket, they done the job. For a change, I also had a lift arranged from the airport, life doesn't get much easier. Even the absence of my luggage from the plane failed to perturb me, I had my hand luggage i.e. the Laptop and camera equipment. What else is there to worry about, my bike and bike gear waited at Phil's house, my first port of call. So how was it arriving back in North Wales? Almost like coming back home. I spent three nights dossing on couches, so I could relax with friends and drink without driving. The main advantage to arriving home this time was actually having a place I could treat as home, a cottage put at my disposal by a very generous friend, Jason. I'm glad he feels happy having me occupy his otherwise empty cottage. Call it Kama, but after numerous occasions when I've given over the use of my house, whilst travelling for a few months, it's nice for the shoe to be on the other foot. I think people should reap what they sow! (Photo: Lunar Landscape of Penrhyn Quarry - Bethesda, North Wales)

Now life takes on a new meaning, another period of organisation, four months of being in the UK. My maps have just arrived so I can begin to chart possible routes through to China. Decisions, decisions, luckily none have to be made as to the actual route yet. It's all a matter of timing though. For Russia I must declare the actual dates of entry and exit, each time I pass through, which has to be at least twice. China also needs a specific date for entry due to the extensive organising of permits, for travel and the bike. The formalities are horrendous for both these places, but it's only really China that charges a sizeable portion of third world debt to drive your own vehicle through. A different permit for every province I pass through must be obtained, my bike has to get registered for use in China, and I'll need a Chinese driving license. I'm giving myself three months to make it to the Chinese border. That gives me more than enough time to get there and and enjoy the process of doing so. Somewhere around Central Asia/Mongolia I'll take some time off the bike and get acquainted with another horse. Let's say there is no shortage of horses or amazing countryside in that part of the world. I'm not used to having to time the crossing of continents though, I'm worried it will get a bit rushed. (Photo: Shadow from airport security's observation window - Dabolim Airport, Goa, India)

There is so much to organise, it's a bit worrying, as soon as I settle in Wales again I get lethargic. Though there is so much to sort out, the motivation to do so is hard to find, I feel like curling up in a corner, hiding away from the world. It saps my energy, leaves me despondent. And this, I believe is why I've been hopping on planes so frequently, jetting off to the first place to grab my attention. I know it isn't quite as easy as that, I have maintained a desire to finish my book before setting off on another adventure. The effort to write at home seems too much for me, even now when there is so little left to do. I used to be such a dynamic person, now I feel everything is a huge effort, there isn't enough joy left in life. And folks, if you lead the life I have been recently, and still feel empty, something is wrong. I'm not complaining, nor feeling sorry for myself, this is my life, the one I've chosen to pursue. I didn't chose the circumstances under which it reached this point, but I still have options, I make my own choices as to the direction I now take. A fine line is still trodden though, between an emotionally devoid contentment, and upwellings of grief. Don't listen to those who assure you that you'll get over losing a loved one, if you do I doubt the depth of that love. But as I keep reminding myself, life goes on, which is also my own choice. (Photo: Gribbit - Namaste Guesthouse, Ohm Beach, Karnataka)

But sort stuff out I must, all my travel equipment, which hasn't seen the light of day since I got back from the Americas trip. My humongous bags of clothes, quietly sitting in my mum's attic, need redistributing. Boxes packed and stored in 2007 need routing out and clearing. But most importantly, my bike needs preparing, to make it the ultimate machine it can become, my ideal tour bike. Plenty enough to keep me busy, and I am getting on with it, honestly! There are drawbacks though, delving my hand into a side pocket of a bag, only to dig out something of Cai's, a personal item, stashed in his travel bag when we left for the States, all that time ago. That hit me hard, I hadn't felt so emotional for some time, but it passed, probably quicker than I'd have thought feasible. So time does make a difference, but it never goes away, the pain is always there, more gentle, more forgiving, but always waiting in the shadows. Realising this is important, it let's me accept it as a part of my present life, it isn't a hindrance. Nowadays, I smile at the memories of Cai more often than I cry! (Photo: Sunset over Newborough marsh - Ynys Mon, North Wales)

My head spins round in circles, trying to make sense of life, trying to keep my head above the clouds. North Wales drains me of motivation, saps me of emotional strength. But what am I whinging for? If my only words to write are of complaint, why do I bother? If my photos on here become merely random pictures to fulfil, am I missing the point? If I don't do anything worth writing about, then why bother. This Blog comes precariously close to its final days, due to finish with the completion of my book. I just need a good kick up the arse to keep me on track, keep my head engaged.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Happy New Year

What a mad New Years eve, I thought it had been busy before, jeezuz! Thousands of Indian males, and I literally mean thousands, turned up to get pissed and let their hair down. There was a virtual complete absence of Indian females, not even the modern city types accompanied their male friends. So weird, earlier the beach was crowded, but not seriously, there were plenty of families and couples. Come nightfall it was a distinctly male domain, and that’s when the booze came out. During the day there had been a beach wide alcohol ban, nothing for sale anywhere, strict instructions of the police.With the coming of darkness the all clear went up and the booze started to flow. I won’t say it was ugly, but there were enough surly looking guys scowling at tourists, in general they only wanted to shout happy new year in your ear and either hug you or shake your hand. I chatted to a few, individually people are fine, but you put them in a mob and they overreact a bit. Not in aggressive displays of manhood, like at home, more like drunken schoolboys, screeching in over enthusiastic delight at the most trivial things. Fires littered the whole beach, as did the bodies, without a light falling over people was unavoidable. Keep to the surf line and you were constantly accosted by guys throwing themselves around you, slurring their greetings at full pitch, yes, definitely drunken school boys.

I didn’t emerge myself until nearly mid-day, bleary eyed and hung over. Breakfast and a swim were in order, luckily the beach had been largely cleared of bodies, unluckily not of the debris left behind. A continuous arc of litter swept round the bay at the high water mark. Plastic bottles were strewn everywhere and broken bottles lay by outcrops of rock, I was outraged, how could people do this to their own natural heritage? Since arriving it’s been kept clear, few bits of litter got left on the beach, invariably what turned up was after a weekend, busy with Indian tourists. In many ways the Indian culture is wavering, coming under pressure from western wealth and freedoms. Consumerism here may have its own particular Indian flavour to it, but it’s still the same old game. Don’t give a shit about anything except your own, material pleasures, where happiness is measured in retail activity. Environment, animals, other people, they don’t matter, as long as you’re having fun. I got very anti Indian tourist on New Years day, my disgust for them made me raise serious questions whether there might be a tinge of racism in there. But no, I detest any cretin who throws their waste all over the place, whatever race, colour or creed.

Decisions have been made, a goal is in sight, and my planning can commence. South America has been so strong a temptation, and to be perfectly honest, still is. But it’s across the Ukraine, Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgystan and China, into Laos. My route through China will take me through Tibet and into Lhasa, I’m lead to believe it includes some of the most remote roads in China, sounds brilliant eh? There will be a bit of a ziz-zag route to fit them all in, but I think I can manage. Somewhere along the way, I want to do more on horse back, where and when I haven’t a clue. Riding horses long distance would be an amazing way to complete a trip, but I think the understanding and experience required to care for the animal would be beyond me. So an independent, solitary trip by horseback isn’t in the offing yet, I need more time, more experience with horses. So South America has been ruled out, it feels kind of stupid to have shipped my bike back home only to ship it there again, so that can be plan B. As to timing; there are plenty of high altitude passes so I don’t expect to cross Central Asia until late June early July, into China towards the end of August. The next thing to determine is whether my limbs can actually bear the strain of riding major amounts of miles, so a few rides around the UK are in order.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Festive fallout!

As the years roll by, wherever we are, our world changes. Our immediate world, not the world at large! Will the change be of benefit or to the detriment of us all, will it help or will it hinder. What effect will we have upon the environs we exist in? Many believe the knack is to pass through the world without upsetting the balance, others are intent on leaving their mark, something to be remembered by. Whether individuals roam the face of our planet or exist in the tiniest corner, we all have an effect. Few are stirred to greatness, yet most wish to be remembered. The ends do not justify the means, take John Lennon’s assassin for example, a warped individual who’s sole aim seems to be the fame his murderous act earned him. I like to think I leave a ripple in my wake, enough to maybe lift people’s heads above the surface, but nothing to cause alarm. When amongst crowds I prefer to go unnoticed altogether. (Photo: Huge moth - Namaste guesthouse, Ohm Beach, Karnataka)

Rajastan may receive more tourists per annum than other Indian states, but over the festive season it’s southern states which get the huge influxes. Miles of glorious sandy beaches, most with no infrastructure at all, no hotels no cafes, no shops, and few chances to reach them, if there’s any access at all. The places are often seen across enormous bays, where there is nothing marked on the map, not even a village. Ask a local what’s there and the answer is simple, nothing! Maybe the occasional fishing family have a hut somewhere, a bamboo shelter, probably not accessible by road. I get the feeling those are the real havens to chill out on, while away a few days without being disturbed by a constant stream of tourists, whether Indian or foreign. And those are the places you’ll never reach, unless you’re independent transport wise. Without, you’re stuck with utilising the same places everyone else has access to, just one of the hoards.(Photo: White breasted kingfisher - Namaste Guesthouse, Ohm beach, Karnataka)

Ohm beach is supposed to be a quiet getaway, well on the tourist trail but laid back and low key. Unfortunately there is also a road in from Gokarna, so the city folk come in their droves. Young, modern Indians, come to drink and make merry, strut their stuff, cigarettes and beer in hand.A guesthouse owner sits smiling, watching two young Indian women smoking and drinking. He wasn’t exactly disapproving, but made the point that you wouldn’t see local girls/women smoking or drinking, in public or private. Someone claimed to have actually seen Mumbai girls on the beaches of Goa in bikinis, whatever next, I’m all for this cultural equality. So ironically, the next day, as I lay basking in the sun, hey presto I saw my first group of Indian women in bikinis. It was a pleasant surprise to see a mixed group of western guys and Indian girls arrive and settle next to me, you don’t really such groups, though I’ve never hung out in the big cities. India is changing very fast, and the change is coming from within. No longer is it the foreign tourist who flaunts what the locals can’t have, it’s their own countrymen, which makes it more accessible, more desirable. There appears no end of affluent visitors from Mumbai and Mangalore, youngsters flashing their cash, They’re not sleeping in shitty little huts with toilets shared between twenty, if they do stay it’s an a/c room, as many as they can fit in. Seeing that show of affluence from fellow Indians has to bring it closer to home. Let’s be honest, a good proportion of the beach crowd around Goa, and many other Indian beach resorts, have got bugger all worth having anyway. How could young local guys envy that, most of them live in better conditions than the tourist beach huts? (Photo: It's a long tale - Namaste guesthouse, Ohm beach, Karnataka)

(Photo: Space race - Ohm beach, Karnataka)

So it’s much busier than I imagined here over Christmas and New Year, I thought I was going to find a very quiet place, perhaps I’m too spoilt, had too many exotic paradises. I’d have thought I could have found a place more suitable to relax and write, India is so huge that if you want to move on it takes days to get anywhere else. And that can be very draining as well. As in any situation, you should try and make the most of it. I’m content with being here, my book is grinding inexorably on, the creative juices aren’t at their best, but are getting the job done. I’m very reluctant to rush it, or is that lethargy? The days are being counted and I know who much is left to write, when I sit down bits dribble out. I know what I want to say, but can’t find the exact words, I spend as much time pacing that typing. But it is coming, and I’m still committed to finishing it competently, I don’t want to screw up so much effort with a sloppy finale. With ten days left before turning home, I’d better get my finger out. (Photo: Romance in paradise - Ohm beach, Karnataka)