What’s going on here?
Where are you right now?
Back in the UK.
Where did you go?
What do different update types mean:
- Just that I am at location and everything is ok. (Two thumbs up, absolutely ok, things are going great)
- Slept here
- Lots of wow noises due to surroundings at that point
- Summited something
- Met someone here
- Something of interest happened here
- Repeatedly, over protracted period, with no intertwined OK/Checkin’s -: everything OK, but not ‘awesome’, no assistance required. Probably coincides with return to civilisation.
Note: none of these updates can mean I need help. There is a unique Help alert that carries that meaning and is dealt with separately.
How do you pronounce Kyrgystan?
Where is Kyrgystan?
Central Asia. South of Russia, West of China
What timezone is that?
Who are you travelling with?
I’m going on my own.
How are you getting to Kyrgystan?
Turkish Airlines: Manchester to Osh, via Istanbul.
How long are you going for?
2 weeks (30th September – 15th October)
Where are you going?
Why Karavshin & Jiptik valleys?
There are unclimbed peaks in the area which I plan to scout/photograph. In addition, the scenery is reputedly comparable to Yosemite but in my 300 page guidebook of Kyrgzystan (2011), Batken province was given just 3 pages, and the Karavshin/Ak-Suu area was mentioned in passing in just one paragraph.
Also, it’s the only state in Central Asia with no visas for UK-visitors.
The area is traveled but certainly not well traveled. Seems like enough reasons to me!
What are you aims?
Meet and understand the landscape and people of the Karavshin & Jiptik valleys.
Where will you be staying?
I will probably mostly be camping, though I may do a few homestays in yurts.
Is it easy to get there?
No, it’s a bit of a ballache. Kyrgystan is 90% mountainous, but also, due to the Soviet Union days of Stalin, there are lots of enclaves and exclaves of various different countries in the area… and the main roads go through them. This means that to drive from Osh to Batken, I have to drive round Sohk, and Uzbek enclave (as I don’t have a transit visa), and the avoid the Uzbek border. When I leave Batken for Karavashin, I have to avoid or otherwise pass through the Tajik enclave of Vorukh…. and to go to the Karavashin area, I need a permit allowing me near the border, as it is close to the border with Tajikistan.
And that’s just the access issues.
Actually finding out everything above was also pretty challenging (and perhaps not accurate!). I don’t expect execution to be as simplistic as I explained.
I’m using a local travel company – Karavshin Travel – in Batken to help with a few things, but I’ve no idea how it will play out.
It wouldn’t be adventure travel, if I knew all the variables.
What are the dangers?
- Aggressive/corrupt police
- Landmines (near borders)
- Civil/ethnic unrest
- Developing country medical care
- Alcoholics / cheap vodka
- Rare Snow Leopards
- Impaling myself on twigs
- Lack of reading material
Have you done anything like this before?
I’ve a good deal of solo trekking experience in England and Scotland and notably last year I spent 2 weeks backpacking through the northern Sweden, in the Arctic circle
Kyrgyzstan doesn’t speak English, even as a second language, how will you communicate?
The locals may speak Kyrgz, or they may speak Tajik, Uzbek or other central Asian languages.
Kyrgyzstan’s second official language is Russian, a foreign language I scored an A in, many years ago, at GCSE. I don’t speak Russian very well anymore, but I can read/spell out Cyrillic and, with the help of a phrasebook, I expect to be able to make myself understood.
Are you taking a satellite phone?
No. If you want to catchup, drop me message and suggest sometime when we can chat when I’m home!? Catchups are good.
What happens in event of an emergency?
In the event I require assistance, my SPOT satellite device will alert 10 friends/family who will probably then contact my travel company in Batken. They will look at the information available to them and make decisions on that.
Are you scared?
No. What is there to be scared of?
If you buy a car, but are too scared of scratching it to take it out of the garage, then there’s no point having such a nice car.
If you have a nice camera but are so scared of losing it that you refuse to take it to places where you’d want nice photos, then there’s no point having such a nice camera.
If you have a nice life, but you’re so scared of taking calculated risks that you don’t get to have fun, then frankly, what’s the point?
I see the world, not as a world of dangers, but as a world of opportunities.
I’ve written about this in more detail in two blog posts:
Is Google Maps the best maps you have?
Fortunately not. I’m navigating off a 1980 1:200,000 Soviet military map, that I have printed to A2 (each square = 4km), and several fragments of 1:100,000 that cover the same area. You can browse the maps with ease on toppomapper.com.
How bad will your withdrawal symptoms be through lack of internet?
Pretty bad… my hair may start falling out. Oh wait, it already is.
I’m kind of looking forward to it – last October I did 12 days in Sweden without internet.
How much does your rucksack weigh?
18kg (inc camera, ex. water)
What’s in your rucksack?
Surely you don’t need XXXX?
If I didn’t feel it was necessary, I wouldn’t be taking it. We may have to agree that we have different definitions of “necessary”.
What money are you taking?
Kyrgyzstan uses the “som”, which isn’t a very strong currency. I’m taking US dollars and some euros I have left over and am going to change them on arrival.
This doesn’t seem very organised, how long have you been planning this?
About 9-10 days from concept to takeoff.
Basically, I had been mis-counting my holidays, and so when I noticed the end of my holiday year approaching, I did a check, and rather than finding I owed holiday, I found I was owed about 2 weeks of holiday…
At that point, began the rush to find a way to make use of my time. After much thought, this was what I decided on.
This sounds very stressful. Wouldn’t you prefer to sit on a beach somewhere and have a casual beer?
I think by “stressful” you mean “exciting”. Having said that, I love beer and beach holidays as much as anyone else, they’re rarely “exciting” though.
Aren’t you vegetarian? Won’t that be tricky in Kyrgyzstan?
Well, for me, it’s a lot less tricky, as I’ve 22 years experience at it, but it’s true to point out that most Kyrgz recipes start with “first you kill your sheep”.
Being sufficiently polite and respectful is far more a concern for me than starvation – bread is an important part of Kyrgz culture and I’m certain I’ll find something to eat.
Why are you vegetarian?
It’s a long story. 22 years long, and I’ve summarised why in a previous blog post.
What will you be eating?
Whilst I’m in the mountains, I anticipate eating expedition food which I spared no expense in buying from a British supermarket. Food is a strangely polarising subject, and I anticipate no end of criticism for my choice to carry food from the UK.
How long will it take you to get your photos online afterwards?
I anticipate taking 2000-5000 photos, perhaps 2-6 hours video footage. I’d anticipate that only about 5% of that will be of interest to most people. Separating that 5% is time consuming and somewhat draining – 6 hours work in several stages. I’ll get it done, but it’ll take time and energy, both of which I won’t have. Expect a multiweek lag.
Who’s paying for your trip?
I’m entirely self-funded.
Are you receiving support from anyone?
When an alert is raised via this system, the oncall engineer is alerted and/or woken up, and goes and deals with the problem.
I’m very confident in my colleagues, and so, by hooking my call for help into Bytemark systems, my colleagues can help alert my ground-team straight away, so help can be sent straight away.
I’m very grateful for Bytemark’s support on this front – not every organisation would be comfortable with such a thing – so I really appreciate working with people who are happy to watch my back.
Any words of gratitude?
I’d like to thank my family, for their positive outlook on everything. It’s really been a great influence on me.
My awesome girlfriend Clara for happily letting me go off and do my own crazy things, and then happily suggesting we go camping in March in the UK. <!–more pukeworthy comments–>
John Proctor for suggestions and moral support and for his part in the Muzkol 2013 expedition with Jonathan Davey, which partly served as encouragement and inspiration. John’s other climbing buddy, Ed Lemon, also deserves a pint for map assistance.
Anita Wilczynska, my former trekking buddy from Morocco, for moral support & encouragement – it’s appreciated!
My sister & her partner for being part of our safety web – thanks!
My colleagues at work, and the building security guard for putting up with most of Amazon, being delivered to our office, for the past 2 weeks.
Who’s influenced and inspired you?
Jessica Watson, Laura Dekker, Robin Knox-Johnson, Pete Goss, Ellen MacArthur, Mike Perham, Joe Simpson, Tom Allen, Theodora Sutcliffe and Zac Sutcliffe, Alexis Ohanian, Tim Moss
Both sets of grandparents’ own style of epic voyages and casual “jaunts” round unusual places.
Who are you raising money for?
Can I pay for your holiday?
I recommend giving money to your favourite charity instead.
I asked Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of the reddit, several (hopefully interesting) questions during one of his relatively frequent AMA‘s (Q&A sessions). Alexis was the largely nontechnical guy who built redddit over a summer during the first Y Combinator (YC) programme, with his technical colleague Steve Huffman, and later sold it to Conde Nast (though he still advises/works on the site).
What do you enjoy doing the most these days?
You’ve done various things, made various things happen – what do you do to make you happy?
Cuddling my cat. Reading. And meeting + helping people be awesome using the internet. That’s why I wrote the book, why I’m doing an insane 5month tour for internet entrepreneurship, and why I care so damn much about not letting government or business screw up the internet.
If you were doing a startup again, without your past work at various of these companies, as a nontechnical guy, what would you say you brought to the table, to other, more technical founders?
No doubt, non-technical founders have a lot more to do to justify their worth at the pre-product stage of a company. We all have ideas. They’re worthless. A non-tech founder has to be egoless enough to do ANYTHING that is not technical. Ordering delivery, handling paperwork, collecting receipts, as well as the ‘sexy’ things like product and branding.
I’m particularly good from that brand + community building side, whether it’s creating the logos (notice all the mascots? heh) or developing that relationship with users and customers to create businesses that people love.
Of course, without first having a product that people want, all of this is worthless. I love that about the internet.
When you were doing $a_startup, who did you ask for advice, how much did you listen to them and how did you know how much to listen, and how much to JFDI?
You know, PG was a great mentor for me and Steve during the first 6mos of reddit because YC was still so small (we were first round, so there were only like 12 companies) but after that, I never really had a mentor.
Aside from Mr. JFDI I wish I did have someone, though. Like Gabe. Or Jay Z.
Do you have any advice for British nightowls up late hacking on things between days of a python conference?
Please stop putting “u”s in places where they don’t belong.
Since I’m being polite & British – here’s a plug for his upcoming book Without Their Permission: How the 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed – you can preorder it, and co-incidentally, it’s on my wishlist.
A few months ago, I was in Greggs, the bakers or northern fast food chain near Piccadilly station before I went to catch a train.
The guy who served me, as he handed over some delicious cheese and onion pasties, made a passing, one line comment about how he thought my hat really suited me.
The comment stayed with me all day, and kept coming back and making me smile, and so by the time I was heading home, I’d decided to write a letter to the company HQ letting them know how it’d brightened by day – as I’ve done on other occasions I’ve had great customer service and I got back this nice email:
I’ve passed on your feedback to the Area Manager and the shop team involved.
Clearly this is fantastic customer feedback and on behalf of Greggs I’d like to say thank you for passing on such positive comments.
We look forward to seeing you again soon.
Emailing customer service departments nice comments is always good, because 99% of the time those departments will handle complaints, and something nice will probably brighten the day of the person reading it.
Anyway, a few days ago, I was passing through the same station, and decided to acquire myself some more addictively warm pastry-based snacks and stopped passed the same Greggs.
My memory of faces isn’t too great, but I suspected I was being served by the same guy, and he kind of looked at me slightly nervously, and then asked if I was the guy who’d written in about him.
When he found out it was, he erupted into a grin and smiled from ear to ear, thanking me and pointing me out to his colleagues.
What made me happy, was that his simple comment, that he thought my hat “really worked” to a complete stranger, made my day… and hopefully, I managed to repay his random act of kindness…
It strikes me that for a 2 second comment and a 5 minute email, a lot of good things have happened.
Looking for nice things to say to people? Here’s some.
I promise, this isn’t sponsored by Greggs (though if you’re reading, I’ll happily accept free pasties for life!)
On the 5th of August I wrote to my MP about Tempora.
My concerns are quite generalised, and my letter format and styling is to be worked upon, however the most important thing was to convey my opinion, and that is what I did:
Today I received a response. Take a read, it’ll only take a second.
Some points of note:
- Lucy is recently elected, and could not have personally voted RIPA into law.
- Parliament is on recess
- Lucy is currently on maternity leave after giving birth to a new member of her family
- I like paper responses, in specific cases like this.
It’s quite easy to be disillusioned by a letter like this, but I’m happy with it. The Home Secretary, Teresa May and I will not see eye to eye, but the most important thing about this letter is something that you may not noticed first time through.
I’ve had to blank it out partially, but I now have a reference number, and this reference number means that, rather than simply sitting and waiting for Lucy to hand me a form-letter from Teresa May’s summer intern, about why “GCHQ is important for our national security” and we must “prevent terrorists and think of the children”, what the reference number means, is that I can write back and engage Lucy in the issue more.
Here’s what I have written:
We’ll see what happens.
What I do know is that writing this letter has done more than doing nothing at all, or posting on Facebook about this every day.
Writing to your MP, is quick, easy, and potentially very rewarding.
When I first started winter hiking, I always took something to speed up my descent:
For me, a high speed sledge descent was the only thing that made it worth it:
These days, rather than taking devices to speed up my descent. I take devices to slow down my descent, or at least, make it as controlled as I can:
Repairing Nokia 3310s, by swapping parts out with other broken Nokia 3310′s, is childs’ play. Almost anyone can do it.
However, without a Torx screwdriver, back in 2008, I used hacksaw to cut a groove in the top of each screw, and then used standard electronics/jewellery screwdrivers to unscrew the screws and take the device apart.
These days, I have Torx screwdrivers and no Nokia 3310s. Probably an improvement.
Summer is pretty.
Recently, we’ve been having some great sunsets and I snapped this view down Plymouth Grove, silhouetting the old Plymouth Grove pub against the sky.
Morris Dancing – middle age men with white hankies and bells? Ladies with silly frilly frocks? I contest these brave men and women are an underground punk music scene, the scale of which, is yet to be fully realised.
For many over 35, “the system”expects them to submit to braincell-removing evenings of TV-absorbtion, whilst working pay off the mortgage and spending any other waking hours being a child-taxi.
One can see how dressing up in silly clothes, humiliating your children, and [mentally] saying “fuck it” just doing it because its fun.
Then when you need to sound respectable, you can explain it in terms of ‘keeping alive a living do-it-yourself tradition of making music and dancing’.
The Punk and Morris Dancing movements are almost identical. Punk music isn’t complicated – it’s not embellished, it’s not fussy, it’s not polished, and neither is music in Morris Dancing. In Morris you have one or two simple folk tunes almost anyone can pick up, in punk rock you have one or two guitars that anyone can pick up, playing some simple chords.
Morris Dancing is technically a form of display dancing, but compared to other display forms of dance, the emphasis is not on a perfect display, on empowering almost anyone to get involved.
Punk rock – technically a display art but more about trying yourself – has two forms of dancing, both of which are high energy, and both of which are instantly possible to pick up.
Morris Dancers dress provocatively in their subculture, in styles that would seem strange those outside it. Men with sashes, white hankies and bells?
Punks dress provocatively in their subculture, in styles that would seem strange those outside it. Men with spiky green mohawks?
Both Morris and Punk are outsider movements with outsider music. The mainstream cannot deal with them. Punk had its commercial day in the 70s and has largely been sent back to the underground. Morris has never been discovered as an underground scene.
In some senses, this sounds ridiculous – Morris has been around since the 1900s (or 1448 depending on how much historical speculation you wish to engage in) but as a mainstream street dance, it’s never been there. Yet for its proponents, and the people who feel apart of it, this is probably a good thing. When a movement goes mainstream, often many original members feel betrayed when things change, poseurs arrive and the underground feel turns into something more mainstream.
As legendary punk rock journalist John Robb explains,
Punk is about feeling alive
and strangely, it seems, so is Morris.