Cambodia on a $50 Bike CAmbodia September 2019 140kms A spirit of genuine adventure dwells deep inside me, one which regularly conjures up some glorious ideas (to me anyway). From time to time one of those ideas will become impossible to shake, where my imagination will take over and transport me to a distant land and the accompanying glorious sense
Couchsurfing is a social network where people host or be hosted by fellow travellers. It’s a ‘gift economy’ and no money changes hands, however, you can bring a very small gift from your country for your host and their kind act of putting a roof over your head for a night or two. I like to use the site in lesser travelled countries,( i.e – Mauritania, Kyrgyzstan and now Iran) I feel it gives you a glimpse into everyday existence and makes the travel raw-er and more memorable. I’d heard such positive reports about the Iranian people and their hospitality so I thought why not attempt to couchsurf the whole time I was there.
December 2017, from the side of a marina in a small town in one of Spain’s Canary Islands, Damian shoved Darien, his 7m long, 2m wide ocean rowing boat away, into the unknown. The goal to traverse 5000km of ferocious Atlantic ocean, solo and unsupported. Over the following 63 days he would endure, storms, capsizes, Christmas day, sea and pressure sores, total steering system failure, close calls with 300m cargo ships, making eye contact with a whale and much more on the incredible adventure few ever get to experience.
A 6 day, 257km ultra-marathon across the uncompromising terrain of the Moroccan Sahara, with temperatures reaching 45 degrees celsius, carrying everything you need to survive for the full six days on your back from the start. All you get, as one of the 1000+ participants to take on the race known as ‘the world’s toughest’ is water and a Berber tent to share with 7 of your compatriots. My first big targeted adventure and challenge post rugby retirement, something I’d been dreaming of competing in for 13 years.
Damian raised €7,800 for Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association and Amani Children’s Home, Tanzania from completing the MDS.
14 days discovering one of the most remote and beautiful corners of the world, the Wakhan Corridor. Situated in North-Eastern Afghanistan, between three of the world’s highest mountain ranges, The Pamirs, The Hindu Kush and the Karakoram, this finger of land, which is believed
to have changed little since Alexander The Great’s army passed through in the 4th century, awaits great adventure for the intrepid traveller.
Being a professional rugby player has many advantages, however it does hold one back in how they can push their body and mind outside of the sport, so upon retiring I set my sights on climbing the mountain that had loomed over the region I had finished my career with US Oyonnax, the highest mountain in Western Europe, Mont Blanc.
‘The World’s most dangerous hike’… the marketing pulled me in and before I knew it, it was going to be the centrepiece of a 11 days trip through China. Situated on Mount Hua, one of the 5 great mountains of China, close to Xi’an, well by Chinese standards anyway, ‘the plank walk in the sky’ is a 40 to 50m walkway on a couple of 2×4’s bolted to the side of a vertical face, above a 1000m metre drop….. Where do I sign up….
What are you up to for you off-season Brownie?……. Vegas again?” This was the start of a new direction with my downtime from rugby. I was sick to my teeth of going to the same places every year, America, NYC, Vegas, etc…. I knew deep down these weren’t wearing I really wanted to be, they weren’t feeding me in any way anymore, so I made a change. If I want to go experience the world, I’m going to go and I’m not letting anything get in my way, especially the fact that I’ll be alone. “So where do you really want to go and experience then?” …… Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail! Some google searching and phone calls to some tour operators show up all the trekking permits for the Inca Trail are sold out…. ‘However there’s an alternative sir, it’s called The Lares Trail but it’s longer and goes over higher passes than The Inca Trail’ “Sign me up”
‘Trolltunga! That’s hardly an adventure, sure anybody can stroll up there’……. Perhaps! However, when my good friend Tommy Ellard and I rocked up one mid-May morning in 2014, we had no idea what the next 12.5 hours and 22kms had in store. Little did we know that an innocuous photograph I took of Tommy at the trailhead would be the saviour of our day and give us a memorable and peaceful hour alone at Norway’s magnificent Trolls Tongue.