After a period of hibernation over the winter, things are now moving rapidly. In the last couple of weeks I have been on excellent courses for Expedition filming http://www.explorersfilmschool.com/ , GPS http://www.gpstraining.co.uk/ and Wilderness Medicine http://www.wildernessmedicaltraining.co.uk/ - the latter held at the Royal Geographical Society and accompanied by the sound of crashing chairs and running footsteps as people fainted or exited the room during slides of the ghastly wounds we will apparently expect to encounter on our travels.
I will be leaving for China next Wednesday March 17th - my ticket on the Trans Siberian or rather Trans Manchurian is booked and paid for - after the stresses of last minute preparations, I will undoubtedly be found collapsed with a bottle of Russian beer clutched in my hand once I am safely onboard. I may not be able to communicate by e-mail until I arrive in Beijing on March 26th, and I will have to content myself with staring at arrays of silver birch for a week.
After a few days of arrangements in Beijing we will head out west to Jiayuguan, and set out along the northern silk route across the Gobi desert, oasis hopping where possible. Stalwart Peng Wenchao is still a core team member, and cousin Rowena is joining us for the first few weeks.
I intend to retrace the steps of Mildred Cable and Eva & Francesca French, intrepid British missionaries who crossed the Gobi desert five times in mule carts in the 1920s and 30s - they were the first British women to do so. They wrote several accounts of their experiences travelling across the desert from oasis to oasis. My father gave me their book 'The Gobi Desert' when I was eighteen, and I was immediately entranced with their descriptions of scrapes with bandits and moonlit journeys through deserted landscapes littered with ruins of old towns and the bones of the unfortunate. I have always harboured a secret ambition to emulate them (in travelling not evangelising) and now find I am in a position to do so. I have also been in contact with Linda Benson, who has written an excellent and well researched biography of the Trio - 'Across China's Gobi', and with Kate James, who followed their trail by bus and train and has written a most entertaining account of her journey 'Women of the Gobi'. All these books are available on Amazon for those who are interested.
On the media front there has been a steady coverage of the ride - for the equestrians among you, there should be a report in Horse and Hound in the near future. I was interviewed some time ago for the new FEI Focus magazine produced by the International Equestrian Federation, who are responsible for equestrian events at the Olympics, but have only just discovered the resultant article in the October issue. It can be accessed in pdf format on the FEI website http://www.horsesport.org/ Look at page 41 in the pdf version of the October issue of FEI Focus.