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Walking in a winter wonderland: 30 mile trek to our work Christmas party


Walking in a winter wonderland: 30 mile trek to our work Christmas party

Our Yes Story is pretty small compared to some of the amazing ones featured on Tribe Stories– but that’s partly why we love it!

Despite my colleague Rory and I having relatively exciting careers working for a humanitarian charity and travelling quite regularly, we have bonded over our feeling that our day to day working lives are not quite enough for us and that we need more adventure, excitement and challenges in order to be satisfied with what we’ve achieved in our short life on this crazy planet.













We’d been playing with ideas over the past year about what we could do – drive a tuk-tuk from Nairobi to Cape Town, cycle across Asia, rollerblade across Europe – but, whilst our dreams are definitely big, reality has unfortunately got in the way. We’re broke to start with! We also not only need our jobs but LIKE our jobs. And I am the mother of a crazy two year old so it is not realistic to simply  disappear for weeks at a time in pursuit of adventure – as much as I would like to!

But, despite the challenges, we’ve kept the faith and kept talking, often over too many glasses of wine, about the adventures we could and should be having. This desire to live life differently and break out of our comfort zone led us to Dave Cornthwaite and the Yes Tribe – and the ideas that had been zooming around our heads started to seem less and less crazy.

That’s what led us to a London pub on a freezing night at the end of November to join the Yes Stories monthly meetup! Weirdly, we were both really nervous about going along and felt incredibly intimidated by all of the amazing adventurers and speakers we knew would be in the room. It was as if we were outsiders or frauds because we hadn’t quit our jobs and walked across Mongolia, or something equally adventurous! But, after a bit of Dutch courage, we got ourselves seated and settled in to be inspired. And inspired we were – not only by the big adventures, the walk across India, the trek across Israel and Palestine, the waterbike around the coast of Iceland – but also by the smaller adventures, the ones being fitted into everyday existence.  And one quote from the night stuck in our heads most of all – “Say Yes and figure it out afterwards.”

So, that evening, still in the pub and still drinking wine, we wondered “what shall we say Yes to?” We decided it had to be something soon – something we couldn’t overthink, something we could afford but something that felt like a proper adventure that we could be proud of. And we somehow came up with the random idea of walking overnight from home near St Albans to our South London office in time for our work Christmas party. When I woke up the next morning to a text from Rory saying “we had better start planning the walk”, I of course had no idea what he was talking about for a few minutes but, after a shower and a coffee, planning commenced!


And by ‘planning’, we found two Ordnance Survey maps and looked at them in the office for 10 minutes; we bought a head torch and we checked our walking boots still fitted. But we were still quietly confident – even when four inches of snow fell two days before we were due to set off and we started getting texts from alarmed friends and family saying “nobody would think less of you if you didn’t do this you know”. But this just spurred us on even more. Plus, we were fundraising for Concern Worldwide (our employer) and turning up in an Uber to see all the people who had sponsored us for the walk just wouldn’t cut it!


Luckily for us, despite the icy conditions, the night of the walk was mild, the sky was clear and, as we set off at 1.30am, dozens of falling stars twinkled overhead – a rare meteor shower that we were so lucky to walk beneath as we set out on our adventure!

By 3.30am, we’d hit St Albans and, by 5.30am, Radlett. We followed the line of the numerous train stations that I pass through on my daily commute without a second thought, usually with a nose in the armpit of another commuter, smartphone in hand, scrolling through social media and dreaming of more.

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We thoroughly enjoyed these first few miles. Walking in the dark and passing through deserted towns and villages and imagining everyone fast asleep in their beds whilst we were on our journey really added a twinge of excitement that we hadn’t expected – and  this feeling that “we’re living life a bit differently to most people right now” is what we had been searching for, and can already feel ourselves becoming addicted to.

Crossing the M25 at 4.50am was weirdly one of the highlights – the most hellish ring road known to man and the barrier between London and ‘everywhere else’. My horrendous sense of direction meant I had never really known where the M25 is in relation to where I live so reaching it stimulated some excitement! Even at this time of the morning, it was absolutely packed with lorries and early commuters and was a truly depressing view of our modern world. Yet walking over the top if it, head torches blinking and flickering and maps in hand, was a real milestone.


From here, we suspected it would get easier – we’ve crossed the M25 so we’re in London right?! The commuters were starting to appear and the first hints of dawn appeared on the horizon. But this was actually the hardest section by far – walking through Elstree and Borehamwood and on to Edgware was rather monotonous. Straight road, fast cars, narrow pavement, and an increase in the number of fast food shops, garages and industrial estates. We’d left the countryside yet still had a long way to go to reach London, and the ‘adventure’ side of things was definitely waning.

But, then we hit Kilburn at around 11am, my old stomping ground, and our spirits lifted immediately – ZONE TWO of the underground! This was actual London! We were going to manage it despite aching muscles, Rory’s sore knee and the hole in my toe! So, we stopped for a pint! This was a glorious idea and a terrible one at the same time because, even with alcohol soothing our aches and pains, re-starting the walk  after an hour of rest was very difficult, and this was probably the closest we got to actually calling an Uber  - but we heroically resisted!

After this, things got better – through Maida Vale, Royal Oak and on to Hyde Park and ‘proper’ London. With our Concern Worldwide tabards, maps around our necks and disheveled appearance, we received some baffled looks from the Kensington crowd but by now we had our eyes on the prize. The glorious feeling of seeing the Thames and belting out Heather Small’s ‘What have you done today to make you feel proud?’ was briefly overshadowed by the lack of shop to buy Prosecco.

But Google Maps came to our rescue (Benedict Allen, take note, so handy) and we finished the final mile with bubbles in hand and a spring in our step, to be greeted by the cheers of our colleagues and a very enjoyable Christmas party, even if we did have to bail early due to exhaustion.

It was a small challenge compared to what some people achieve but one that we wanted to do in order to prove to ourselves that we could devise, plan and execute our own adventure  – even with minimal preparation and in the middle of winter – and now we’ve been spurred on to more . We have some exciting plans up our sleeve. Watch this space!

Jen and Rory

Reach us at:

Twitter @jenwilliams33

Twitter @RoryCrewACA



Kayaking for Blackthorn


Kayaking for Blackthorn

To say that Yestival 2017 had a big impact on me is an understatement. I had no intention of coming away with the resolve to undertake a big physical and mental adventure, but that’s what happened after hearing Darren Edwards talk.


And so it began


And so it began

by Rolfe Oostra

“pass world, I am the dreamer that remains, the man clear cut against the horizon” Roy Campbell.

My first venture as a mountain guide could not have been better conceived. The backdrop was Africa, the mountain sat nicely balanced on the equator, and my paying client was a good buddy. I had just turned 20 and survived some bad craziness in the New Zealand Alps and needed to escape the gloom and doom that followed. Researching for a back-door, I found a black and white photo of a striking mountain in an old book by Eric Shipton. That mountain beckoned like a wonderful dream which you don’t want to wake up from - the Mountain was Mount Kenya. It set the stage for what was to come; years of shoe-string travelling and dirt-bag climbing.

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I had little money; no dirt-bag climber worth his salt does. Working as a farmhand I’d scraped together enough cash to buy a one-way ticket to Nairobi, and I had accepted my client's offer to bankroll the expedition. My plans for Africa didn’t extend beyond the mountain. I had borrowed the guide book and determined a route but had thought no further. Faith and Providence landed us on the porch of a Polish Lady called Mamma Roche. This huge utterly crazy vodka swilling lady possessed angel wings and a heart of solid gold. If ever I found a true home from home, her ramshackle house jettisoned in the roughest part of Nairobi was it; the tropical gardens complete with monkeys and chameleons eventually served as our HQ for three years.


The mountain is 200 kms north of Nairobi and the villages at its foot are conveniently linked to the city by tarmac roads. Excitedly, we jumped on a local bus (a matatu) and headed the wrong way. We quickly learned to phrase things Africa style. The question “does this bus go to Mount Kenya?” will always be answered by “Yes”. The question “Where does this bus go?” goes a long way in getting you to your destination and not Lake Victoria where we first ended up.  Days later, having found the right matatu, we loaded our stuff on the roof and headed north.


The park entry fees, although in Africa always open to negotiation, were well beyond our meagre budget and forced us to try diversionary tactics by going bush. This plan, from the onset a fine balance between adventure and stupidity, had its foundation in the bushland excursions we made in our native Australia when we were kids. That we’d be more likely to encounter a leopard than a wallaby we gave no thought to as we rambled up a steep bank and waltzed into the trees. Since we were trying to avoid park rangers we struck a course through the equatorial forest running parallel to the dirt road which our guidebook showed lead to the first camp.

The going was tough; thick stands of bamboo, thorns and spiky jungle vines caused endless delay. Clothes, hair, skin and rucksacks were each in turn grabbed, scratched and stabbed by millions of barbs and spines. The equatorial nightfall pounced on us with the suddenness of a wild beast. We had long lost the road and were well short of our designated camp. Camping where we stood had become necessary. We scratched out a level bit from the leafy forest floor and nervously struck our tent.

Night in these jungles have a curious rhythm to it. There is always a background noise your brain does it’s best to explain away with what is familiar; cicadas, mosquitos, horn-bills and frogs set up a wall of white-noise through which blared the occasional unfamiliar hoot and grunt. I tried putting on a brave face as we were going about the camping routine but the realisation that I had no idea what was out there was hard to disguise. As soon as the tent was up we leapt in and tried to sleep. “Are you still awake mate?” became my client’s catchphrase as each hour he’d illuminate the tent with the light of his watch.

At 3am we heard a loud crash outside the tent; the noise was not a noise made by an insect or an animal but sounded like something ripping a branch from a tree. I turned on my petzl headtorch and shone it into the startled face of my client. “Did you hear that, mate?” he whispered. I opened the tent fly and beamed my light into the dark jungle night. I could see nothing until another loud snap about ten meters away revealed the outline of an enormous arse. Standing with its backside towards us was an African elephant merrily tearing down a tree; branch by branch. “What is it, mate?” came a voice whispering behind me. The guidebook and prior experience had no way to explain how to react to seeing an elephant tearing down a tree only metres from our tent. So I did what that other African creature does and stuck my head in the sand. “It’s nothing, mate. Go back to sleep”.  

Once we broke out of the forest we entered broad moorland and climbed steadily up to the edge of a huge canyon. This seldom trodden path to the base of our wall took us four days to complete. It led us through an enchanted landscape of tarns, pinnacles and weird plants that suggested both Tolkien and Planet of the Apes. Perhaps because this was my first mountain expedition I have developed a bias but I will always hold up Mount Kenya as a yardstick to some of the many stunning wilderness landscapes I have climbed in since. These days passed too quickly.


We arrived at the wall feeling strong and acclimatised. And as an additional bonus we had not been challenged by officialdom. The only people we had seen had been a large group of porters carrying down the body of a South African man who’d abseiled off the end of his rope. His young wife in utter shock trudged numbly behind the group. They explained that they’d sent a runner down to organise a chopper to evacuate the couple as soon as they’d been alerted of the accident but it had never made an appearance. The two climbers had made a successful ascent of the Shipton route but he had made the rookie error of not tying a knot in the end of his rope for abseiling. After he’d fallen his wife had continued down alone until she reached the glacier where she’d bumped into the porters bringing up loads for a group coming up the regular trekking route. We introduced ourselves and tried to offer assistance but she was in another world entirely. I knew how she felt and we left her to descend to the dark world below; another life shattered by the thing we loved the most.

Being dirt-bags, we camped well away from the hut right against the base of the wall. Although we could see the hut across the glacier and watched several people moving around, we revelled in our independence. I had settled on repeating the line of the original first ascent; the Halford Mackinder route. (Alpine grade D, 700 meters.). Mount Kenya is the original twin peaks. Both its summits are named after Massai chiefs with Batian (5199m) being only a fraction higher than its twin Nelion. Separating the brothers is the Gate of Mist; a sharp notch often cloaked by streaming mists.

This choice of route was equally adventurous and naïve. The more often climbed Shipton route offers some great rock-climbing and is usually ice-free. By attempting the original route we’d be traversing onto the very steep diamond glacier and climbing into the Gates of Mist before reaching Batian. I had brought two ice-screws and we each carried crampons and an ice-tool on top of all our rock-climbing equipment. Still, we blustered that if fat boy Halford could climb the route in breeches and studded leather boots then today’s space-age kids would have no problems; naturally we were about to be impressed. Our tights, camera action moments reduced to insignificance by a singular monochrome image of a pipe smoking, bespectacled fat man.


“Halford might have had a fat arse but he sure had some balls too” puffed my client. We had just finished the first half of the climb to the South ridge. The initial pitches had not been too stiff and we even simu-climbed for a while.


But as the outline of the ridge grew sharper the climbing had become increasingly tricky; enough to make me think that we had gone off route.  I re-checked the guidebook and found that my client was bang on; old Halford really did have some balls. When we popped over the ridge we were confronted with a huge drop. Below us stretched the serious diamond couloir and the mighty south face. We scrambled over the ridge and crabbed our way to the couloir which linked up to the Gate of Mist. We climbed some way on ice and then a short rock step lead to the summit.  

We had done it! The route was in the bag! Eagerly we lifted the camera from the bag to take those irreplaceable Kodak moments. The views were non-existent; we’d been so focused on the climbing that the rudimentary weather checks had gone unheeded; the Gates of Mist were living up to their name. We took a summit shot that could have been taken in a steam room and began the descent to Nelion and the abseil route down its eastern flank.


When we got there the weather turned for the worst; hail began to bounce all around us and loud thunder claps were growling up the valleys. Luckily for us a tiny coffin shaped structure has been built on the summit by the enterprising Kenyan climber Ian Howell. This largely unsung local Alpinist soloed the Shipton route thirteen times carrying sheets of tin and mattresses to create this unusual summit post. Still, we were grateful to be able to escape the weather and scrambled inside. “It’s just like being in a coffin mate” said my client again. He was right; the last few people who had spent the night here had been the couple we’d bumped into on the way up.

The sun always shines again. And it did so the very next day. Stiffly we crawled out of the coffin and began the long process of rigging up nineteen abseils to reach the glacier at the base of the mountain. Once down we began the long walk back to civilisation.

There is not much more to add to the story except to mention that Mount Kenya had the last laugh. A mountain like anything else is nothing more than a sum of all its parts and on this mountain this includes a zoo worth of strange beasts. Having so far represented dirtbag climbers around the world by displaying exemplary resourcefulness in not paying park fees, we felt the need to maintain form; it was back into the bush for us.

We followed the most popular path down until we reached the forest and reluctantly tried the “sticking to the road whilst scraping through the forest” routine again. This time the going was easier and as we drew nearer to the gate and the noisy ranger hut, we began to feel optimistic about passing by unnoticed. It was all going so well; the forest was relatively open and there were many tiny paths created by local people foraging the forest. We could hear the activity at the gate but the forest was dense enough to camouflage our presence. Fortunately the forest was not so impassable as to disguise the dozen buffalo blocking our path. “F**k mate!” began my client.

We were far enough away for the herd to have noticed our presence but not to be alarmed. Or so we guessed. “We need to get around them mate” whispered my client. I was glad he had begun to catch on. On tiptoes we began a journey off the paths into some dense undergrowth. We scrabbled through bushes, bent around trees and shuffled amongst branches in an ever-widening arc. Eventually, we were far enough away from the herd to make a run for it. And this we did at breakneck speed. It wasn’t long before we broke out of the forest and bounced into a neatly ordered banana plantation. A grizzled old man wearing a neat jacket and a pair of shorts was tending to his trees. He did not seem alarmed by our sudden appearance and smiled knowingly as he pointed out the direction to the road that led out of the forest and into a very crazy future.

Who is Rolfe Oostra?!

Rolfe is Co-Founder of 360-expeditions and has been travelling the globe on raw and exciting expeditions since he was 18 - the early years with his thumb stuck out and the later years always with a gaggle of excited trekkers and climbers.  Since setting up 360-expeditions, Rolfe has taken clients all over the world on exciting, fast paced and often extreme expeditions, including summiting Everest! He is a Berghaus and Stubai athlete and lives life to the full.

If you want to join Rolfe or 360 and MAKE LIFE MEMORABLE check them out here.


GET INVOLVED and say YES! The Yes Tribe is off to Jordan and you can come too!

SayYesMore has partnered with 360 Expeditions and are offering an incredible opportunity: a huge campout in Jordan.

Emma Taylor from SayYesMore will be leading the expedition in May 2018 for 10 days. This magical adventure in the heart of Jordan will see you trek through canyons filled with lush clear water and desert plains while camping out under the stars with the Bedouins before reaching the magical awe inspiring Petra. Thereafter it will be time to enjoy your hard earned treat - two nights at the Dead Sea.

Find out more here.


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Motorcycle diaries of a former soldier


Motorcycle diaries of a former soldier

You've all heard it before, the comments coming from friends and family down the pub or wherever,  who claim they are going to do 'this or that' one day. What actually is ‘this or that’ is anyone's guess. Most of the time, we convince ourselves that at some unspecific point in time, we will break free from the chains of normality so we can disappear into the sunset. Yet sooner or later, the realisation of what it takes to achieve this dream hits home – and we stumble at the first hurdle, because actually,  the hardest part of ‘this or that’ is just getting to the start line.

I've always liked to travel, experience new things and be on the move, so I was well suited to the military and all the moving around it entailed.  

After returning from my last tour in Afghanistan, I decided to settle down…. you know, do the things you're ‘supposed’ to be doing at 33 years old. Well, I tried to settle and embrace the 9-5 structure that keeps other people ticking along, but something inside was screaming at me. Ever since my exit from the army, I felt as though I was constantly battling some inner demons – they go by the name of Anxiety and Depression.

Trying to be the proud tough soldier, I didn't want to be labelled with anything and have to deal with the consequences of being told I had a ‘problem’. Later, my engagement ended with my partner, and so I started the process of living with friends and moving around a lot whilst self-medicating with a party lifestyle and the instant gratification of shallow attention from the opposite sex.

After disastrous attempts at finding a new relationship and telling myself that my job was great because it was easy, I decided I was in desperate need of a total shake up…something dramatic. I needed the old Aaron back. I knew it was going to take something big to restore me to the world.  

A plan starts to form

I had been riding motorbikes for about two years at this point - not much time at all. And certainly not enough experience to go anywhere far, right? Well, sod it. I had this crazy idea in my head for about two months. One day I visited my parents and told them: “I'm going to ride a motorbike around the world. Oh and I'm going alone too.” That was my Yes moment! My dad's reaction was: “That's great son!” My mum's was: “Is that even possible?!”

I was certain it was possible. I heard other people had done it, so why can't I?!

A plan comes together...

I spent the next year or so planning the trip. Everything I did revolved around some element of the trip! I was throwing everything at it…saving money and selling many of my possessions – I thought to myself, “If I can't carry it on the bike, then it gets sold, and I will turn it into fuel money instead.”

The trip became the new focus I’d been searching for. My next mission, if you like. Sure, I still had some shit times. Mental issues don't just go away overnight but I was slowly learning to understand my issues and how to live with them manageably, so that I could still get excited and passionate for life, and the thought that revolved around my head most days, and often got me out of bed in the morning, was “I'm going to ride my motorbike around the world and nothing can stop me!”

The last couple of days before I left were unreal. I couldn't sleep because my anxiety was in overdrive. But when I looked in the mirror, I was beginning to recognise the face staring back at me. I was rock climbing almost daily, doing long distance assault courses, and I had stopped drinking - all these things meant I was feeling fit and strong again. But was I ready for the trip?

I don't think you're ever ready. You just have to go with it: cross that start line and embrace everything that comes your way. It's been just over a year on the road so far - right now, I am in Colombia, which is country twenty two and continent number four! I have made friends with people I will be connected to for the rest of my life, which is more than I can say about some of the friendships I was struggling with back home in England.

The future

So where do I go from here? I still have a destination to get to: Ushuia, the most southerly town in the world. I am still making it up as I go and I'm grateful to be learning every day as new challenges present themselves. Motorcycle touring is my life now. I’ve gained so much self confidence, and am immensely proud of myself for making this happen, rather than being someone who daydreams about doing ‘this or that’.

I'm putting plans together for future trips and expeditions when I return to England. If you're reading this and have been chewing over an idea for a trip, lifestyle change, or perhaps a new business idea, then my advice is this: take some time, breathe, create some rough plans, and let the plans evolve as this can guide you towards taking the first step.  

As cheesy as it sounds, just say Yes! I doubt you’ll regret it.



Tribe Stories Round Up - February 26 2017


Tribe Stories Round Up - February 26 2017

A weekly (most of the time!) round up of stories, events and projects coming out of the YesTribe.

Written and researched by Richard Potter.


Fancy a paddle? Paul Hughes is organising a sea kayaking trip in June, giving YesTribers the chance to see some beautiful coastline, swim, fish for meals, explore sea caves and camp out under the stars. The trip will involve sit on top kayaks which are very stable (and suitable for beginners!) and there'll be a guide leading the way. The trip is only £155 and the few spaces remaining are sure to get snapped up quick, so check out the event here and reserve your place today!


Would you like to raise awareness & funding for the fight against Cancer while having a great time doing it? If so, join some of your fellow YesTribers on the River Itchen near Southhampton on the 25th of June.  There's a 3K, a 6K and a 12K course so the event is suitable for paddlers with a range of experience levels. You can find out more about SUP for Cancer here and you can join the YesTribe event here



And now for something completely different: a land-based event! In April Greg Harradine will run 7 marathons in 7 days to raise money for The Musical Brain (which shares the latest research into how music and the other arts can benefit our minds, brains and bodies) and Creative Youth (which enables young people from all backgrounds to reach their potential through the arts). Greg will start his marathons on the 17th of April and do 6 marathons along the 150-mile London Outer Orbital Path (the LOOP, known as the "M25 for walkers") before finishing the series with the London Marathon on the 23rd of April.  

You can visit Greg's fundraising page here to help support these 2 amazing causes. Go Greg!!

Have you been inspired by any of these stories? Do you have your own to share? We'd love to hear about it. The YesTribe is a community that is free to anyone who is looking to make life less restricted, more enjoyable, more interesting and more memorable. Your story doesn't need to be an endurance adventure: many of the YesTribe are making films, raising money for good causes and developing the community.

We'd love to hear from you: share your stories here at Say Yes More or join the YesTribe Facebook group to connect with fellow YesTribers.

Make life memorable, Say Yes More! 


Bikepacking Baja


Bikepacking Baja

It’s been nearly two months since I joined around 90 people on the waterfront in San Diego at the start of an off-road route stretching south for some 1700 miles, along the length of the Baja California peninsular, in Mexico.

I have been riding the Baja Divide, a new long distance mountain biking (bikepacking) route which starts in San Diego, California, USA and ends in San Jose Del Cabo, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Since January 2nd, we have fallen into a daily pattern of riding, eating and sleeping, following little used dirt roads to cross from the Pacific Ocean to the Sea of Cortez multiple times as we slowly make our way south.

We've passed through empty deserts, canyons and mountains and along both coastlines, by way of historic Spanish Missions, remote ranchos, tiny fishing villages and bustling highway towns. The trails have been tough at times - a mix of hard-packed dirt, sand, gravel and small boulders, but the scenery has always been beautiful.

Saying YES to this trip

I've followed the lightweight long distance mountain biking journeys of Nicholas Carman and Lael Wilcox for a few years now, and when they announced that they were putting together this route, I was really excited. At the same time, they extended an open invitation to an informal 'group start' on 2nd January 2017, as a celebration of the new route. 

I've done a few similar trips before (which are documented here), although most of the longer ones have been on my own, and I wasn't completely sure about joining such a large group, especially as I thought most of the other riders would probably be fitter and more determined than I am! But I also know from past trips that I eventually find long solo cycles a little lonely and I just don't know enough other bikepackers who want to undertake journeys like this, so I bit the bullet and put my name on the list back in March last year.

It's pretty cool to recognise that since I said Yes to this trip eleven months ago, in a year when anything could have (and much has) happened, I now find myself writing this, nearing the end of the adventure.

Ride highlights so far

The route has been incredibly varied - even the desert itself has changed from a vast, empty, desolate space in some places, to a lush green forest of cardon cactus and cirio trees in others. Each change has been unexpected. I used to feel intimidated looking at images of desert journeys, but I've loved riding and camping here and it's given me the confidence to do more journeys in similar regions in the future.  

Being part of such a big group has really added something special to this trip. Instead of being seen as slightly odd by most of my friends and colleagues for wanting to undertake journeys like these, suddenly I've been in the company of around 90 other people who completely 'get it' - we all share a love of the outdoors, travelling by bike, and being self reliant.

As the group has spread out into smaller bands of riders along the trail, it's also meant that it's been easy to get information on trail conditions ahead, good bike shops for repairs, and the best taco stands in the next towns!

I've loved the mix of people and I’ve learnt a lot from them. Riding off-road means it’s essential to minimise your kit and be efficient with how you carry it on the bike. Meeting so many people who are also trying to solve the daily puzzle of the best way to cram all your gear onto a bike, in a way that makes it still fun to ride on difficult terrain, has led to some great insights. It is funny how you think you're travelling pretty lightweight, and then you meet someone who has half the gear that you do, and they are surviving just fine.

The local people have been incredibly friendly. I would like my Spanish to be better, but between us we've managed and have received a warm reception from local families, kids and street vendors, who are always curious about the bikes, the big tyres and the gear we carry. We’ve been welcomed into homes, played football with a village load of kids, and been given fresh fish to take with us for dinner that evening.

Following a route that has been put together by other riders really makes the practical side of this kind of journey easier. I've ridden similar kinds of mountain bike routes before, and at other times I've made routes up as I go. By far the most enjoyable riding has been where someone has put time and effort into compiling a route that is rideable, and has provided some idea of re-supply options. It means that you're free to enjoy the riding more, without the nagging fear that the unknown dirt track you're following might just disappear or become a mountain goat track that is impassable, and for me, I think that this gives you more confidence to explore areas that you might otherwise miss, especially when you have to be mindful of not running out of water.  

 Riding with a big group

I haven't joined a ride with so many people before, but it's been great to do it on this trip. Although around 90 riders started the route at the same time, the group spread out pretty quickly, naturally forming smaller groups. This was important, both because such a large group in one place would detract from the point of being out in the wilderness in the first place, and to avoid overwhelming the smaller towns and villages on the route.

Although we all started together, other than a bunch of people riding the same route at around the same time, this is not an organised ride. Aside from the group start and some arrangements for first night of camping and dinner some fifty miles later, it’s everyone for themselves. It’s up to each individual how they want to ride: whether with a group or on their own; fast or slow; following every inch of the route or bypassing sections; wild camping every night or seeking out hotels and warm showers. No one cares whether you finish the route first, last or not at all. It’s just 90 or so individual journeys linked by geography and timing, and in the end, by new friendship, camaraderie, a love of the outdoors and of travelling by bike.

One of the potential issues of riding in groups is that people tend to have a different pace, both of riding and of life. Some want to ride for ten hours a day, whilst others want to take time to enjoy coffee and breakfast at camp in the morning, and spend more time in the towns and villages along the way. So I was free to push on ahead of the group I found myself with, or slow down and take more time to smell the flowers. Either way it is easy to find other people also riding the route ahead or behind me. And as we are all riding pretty self sufficiently, with all the gear to travel and camp on our own, we have total freedom. I've ridden and camped with around four different groups of people in the last month as well a few days on my own, and I've really enjoyed the mix.

I like to try to document my journeys with photographs, and riding with others makes this so much easier and more interesting. Instead of having to photograph empty trails, or set up time consuming shots of myself, I've had a wealth of other people to photograph!

Advice for others thinking of bikepacking

The nature of (and usually, the point of using) off-road routes means that you're likely to be on more rugged terrain and in more remote locations than you might be usually. And whilst I am keen to not get bogged down in the 'gear', it pays off to consider what your priority kit, and how to plan for most eventualities. Getting stuck in the desert with a broken bike and without enough water is not ideal, so having kit for a contingency plan can make a huge difference.

The biggest considerations for this route were:

•        Chunky, tubeless tyres. The fatter tyres allow riding on the more sandy sections, and running tubeless tyres (which don't use an inner tube, but which contain a latex sealant to immediately seal small punctures whilst riding) means that generally we haven't even noticed the numerous thorns that have punctured our tyres. We also brought a few ways to fix a bigger tear in a tyre (eg caused by a sharp rock), although (touch wood) this hasn't been an issue for me yet. 

•        Water. There are some long stretches of this route without water supply, and so we've all been carrying around 5-8 litres of water as standard, with a couple of sections where more was needed to last a few days. So everyone has had to think about how to carry such a volume on their bikes, and the rhythm of the riding is very much dictated by water resupply points.

Riding in a group can make this easier, because as long as you know you'll be with others, you can share gear, and if one of you has a problem, there are others there to help. 

If you're planning a long journey with a small group, I think it's a good idea to have an idea of the kind of pace that you each ride at, and also the pace of life you want to enjoy whilst on the trip. If one of you wants to leave before sunrise each day and not pause in any of the local towns, and the others want long leisurely breakfasts and a more cultural experience, then things may become tricky. Having said that, riding with others who like to get going in the morning has helped me get moving more quickly than normal, which has been a good thing!

No dramas!

Baja has felt really safe, and the biggest issues have been bike mechanical problems, limited water on some stretches, as well as some illness. I've had to negotiate a lift from a remote ranch to a town as my rear hub bearings disintegrated, and then take a seven hour bus journey (each way) to get back to the nearest bike shop to get the bearings replaced. A few people have had issues where they've been slightly stuck due to other mechanical problems, but the bike shop has been able to send replacement parts where needed, sometimes with other riders who were passing by, or another local solution has been found.

Rain early on caused some sections of the trail to turn into a horrible, sticky muddy mess that became completely impassable, clogging up bike wheels and drivetrains and making it impossible to move anywhere. Many of us avoided these sections by riding the road or taking a bus, but stories from other riders included a couple of girls who got caught in heavy rain and were stuck for two days, only managing to move two miles until things started to dry out!

Some groups have had issues with some lurgy making its way slowly around everybody, one person after another. Whilst I also avoided that, I did have a scary day or two where, after four hotter and longer days that I'd been used to, I realised that I had blood in my urine. It was worrying, but there wasn't really any other option than to carry on. I was with other people who donated water and thankfully although we'd just had four days in the middle of nowhere, the next town was 'only' 22 miles away and mostly downhill. I went to hospital to be checked out and rested up for a week or so before continuing to ride. I am in good health now.  

Serious health issues aside, these are just little challenges to overcome, there's usually a solution, and these become the stories you tell your friends and family back home!

Future bikepacking trips

I don't have another big trip planned just yet, but I'm sure it won't be long. I'd definitely like to ride with a group again, although it's unlikely to be as large - this was a pretty unique trip. And of course, I'll definitely do solo trips again. In fact, the kind of security blanket that comes from being part of a big group on this ride has made me feel more confident about undertaking further trips in challenging environments than I had before, both as a group and on my own.

Do get in touch if you’d like any advice or might want to join me on a bikepacking adventure!


Falling in love with Nepal


Falling in love with Nepal

Ironically, my love affair with Nepal with its expansive and all-encompassing scenery, along with its generous and charming people, began early one morning on a cramped tube journey to work in central London in August 2011.

Flicking through the mornings free newspaper, I came across an advert for a charity trek to Nepal following the Khumbu Valley towards Mount Everest, culminating at the head of the valley with promised views of Mount Everest – Chomolungma - the world’s Mother Goddess.

At the time, I was restless and bored in London and, having grown up in New Zealand and loving the outdoors, I was starting to lose myself in the urban jungle instead of the real one.  I had always had a keen interest in Tibet and Buddhism and from that had developed a deep love and yearning for the romanticism of the Himalaya.  That was where my true interest lay, and seeing the ad rekindled these feelings; the trek was a way for me to experience the mountains and Buddhism. 

My YES moment

My YES moment was pretty much instantaneous.  My mind was made up before I’d even got off the tube – the mountains were calling and I had to go (as they say) – but I did have to run it by my husband that evening as our kids at the time were 18, 16 and 13. The conversation with my husband went:

ME: ‘Honey, I want to go on this trek.  You can come, or not come, but I’m going.  You’ve got until tomorrow to decide.’

HUSBAND: ‘OK. Lets go’


Over the next three months, we raised nearly £8000 for the children’s charity Action Medical Research. We held a ridiculously successful auction evening, many many office raffles, an online raffle and the rest made up of donations by friends and family.  Fortunately our fundraising coincided with the 2011 Rugby World Cup and with our good connections with players we were supported very well with items to auction and raffle. 

Stepping foot in Nepal

Three months after my YES moment, I landed in the madness that is Kathmandu and although I had no idea what to expect, as soon as my foot touched her soil and my lungs breathed her air, this country, this place, her people, her culture, permeated my heart and my soul.

Over the next thirteen days we took an internal flight to Lukla (reputably one of the world’s most dangerous airports) and started trekking the Khumbu Valley to Gorak Shep, where we would summit Kala Pattar, a small hill by Nepali standards sitting at a mere 5550m. Only then would we see her - Mighty Chomolungma - steadfast and overpowering in her magnificence.

On descending the valley I found it increasingly difficult with each step to move back towards ‘the real world’. I had a sense that the mountains didn’t want me to leave, and as a magnet draws things closer, I felt as though the mountains wanted to encompass me with their invisible arms and dance with me for eternity.

It was no surprise that by the time I arrived back in Kathmandu I had already resolved to return to Nepal as soon as time allowed. Plans got underway immediately, and before the next year was up, I found myself back in the Khumbu Valley….back to what had very quickly become my second home.

I have since returned to Nepal every year for increasingly longer periods of time, with my desire to return becoming far more complex than my original self-centered motivation and the personal gratification of trekking and climbing the highest mountains on earth.

I am now irreversibly aware of the discrepancy of privilege within and between countries. I believe that no human should suffer because of where they were born, who they were born to, or what gender they are. I have truly learnt and firmly believe that EVERY LIFE MATTERS EQUALLY.

I have seen this. I have felt this. I know this.

The devastating earthquakes of 2015 and the continuous political discord within Nepal have acted as an impetus for me to work to resolve in whatever way I can the lack of freedom, the discrepancy of privilege and the marginalisation of minority groups experienced by many Nepali on a daily and lifelong basis.

Unite for Nepal

In July 2016 I founded Unite for Nepal, a small charitable foundation dedicated to the support, development and growth of sustainable community initiatives focusing on the UN Global Goals of improved health & wellbeing, clean water & sanitation, reduced inequalities and gender equality  in rural Nepal.

We currently work in the Dudhakunda district of Eastern Nepal and are running several successful projects in association with the local schools and health clinic out post.

We at Unite for Nepal believe anything can be achieved through generosity of spirit, actions based on the imaginings of the mind, a compassionate heart, and a commitment from the soul.

How can you get involved? 

This year we are looking for people to get involved by taking on a challenge and electing to fundraise for us.

You can also help by following us on social media and help us to share our stories with others. This, combined with encouraging people to travel to Nepal and promoting the incredible country that it is, will keep Nepal in everyone’s conversations and hearts.

You can keep up to date with our latest projects by following us on Facebook and Instagram @unitefornepal, and for further information visit and subscribe to our mailing list.


Nepal is a country with a particularly alluring and magical energy. It is a country whose irresistible pull is founded in an ancient society and culture which, to this day, is still upheld on a day to day basis by those who call themselves Nepali.

With all of its layers of complexity and its multitude of contradictions, Nepal has a sense of wholeness and calm.

Above all else, the most lasting impression of any visit to Nepal, is that left by the Nepali people themselves who are always smiling in the face of adversity and whose hospitality, generosity of heart and forever welcoming smiles will most definitely have you returning at least once in a lifetime.

Put quite simply, Nepal is unsurpassable.

Jacqs Leui'i

You can also follow my travel adventures in Nepal and around the world by checking out

Facebook: Jacqs Leui'i Adventures  

Instagram: Jacqs Leui'i

#unitefornepal #mystrollthroughnepal #alphabetmarathon #cantrundoitanyway #girlfromasmalltown #jacqsleuiiadventures #adventuremum


‘Me vs Myself’


‘Me vs Myself’

I have recently returned from paddling over 1200km down the Ganges in an inflatable bath tub (aka a pack raft). Aside from being a fantastic trip, full of ups and downs, I can honestly say it was the kick up the backside I was desperately in need of. It has taught me that life for me is most definitely all about new experiences and challenges and it has shown me that I can do something crazy in life, and come out the other side bigger and better for it!

I’m Neil Irwin. A 30 year old guy who lives in London, works in TV industry with a passion for adventure and the outdoors. I’d describe myself as ‘normal’ guy.  I don’t work a normal 9-5, but my job involves long and unsociable hours which makes some adventures unfeasible. I’ve done some organised trips before – USA, Nepal, around travelled solo around New Zealand with no set plans.

Being able to paddling down the Ganges was a case of being in the right time and in the right place.

I had heard about a team being set up who were calling themselves ‘Ganges SUP’, the first source to sea descent of the Ganges by Stand Up Paddleboard, and they were looking for a third team member.

I decided to contact the team about being the third team member, however I already had work commitments booked in my diary around the same time as their training trip in Ireland, so it wasn’t going to be possible for me to join as they wanted someone who could commit to the training schedule and the expedition itself. So although disappointed, I reassured myself by thinking that life is full of surprises and other opportunities may arise in the future.

I kept in touch with the team and ended up helping out by doing some photography entirely off my own back to help their crowdfunding and promotional material. Although I work in the TV industry, I am also trying to progress my career in to the photography realm towards the outdoor and adventure scene, so thought this could be of some use towards my portfolio.

Afterwards, the Ganges Sup Team offered me the chance to not only come out and join them on their adventure, but to also take some photos to record the trip. There was just one catch: I would need to source my own way of joining the team on the river – but I didn’t have anything.

A while before I met the Ganges Sup Team, a friend of mine spontaneously asked me one morning whether, instead of going for a coffee, I would like to go pack rafting on some London canals? He told me about the basics of it so I said sure why not?! Bit of a laugh, some fun, something new to try.

For those who don’t know, a pack raft is an inflatable raft made out of heavy duty plastic type material that packs down to about the size of a shoebox, yet is sturdy and tough enough to withstand a lot of abuse.

I had been toying with the idea of buying my own raft for a while after this spontaneous little trip as I enjoyed it quite a lot – however found out just how expensive they are! But after having met the Ganges SUP team this gave me the perfect excuse to invest in one as I would otherwise have no way of joining the team on the river, plus it’s something I can easily keep in London as it packs down so small.

So I decided to use some of my savings to buy my own raft. I collected it myself from Aviemore in Scotland when I took a week’s holiday to explore the Cairngorms and Isle of Skye. I took it for a small test down a nearby river, and realised that paddling in a pack raft in the wild is much more fun than I first thought!

My YES moment

It took me a while to commit to the Ganges adventure; I had many questions, particularly safety concerns. I didn’t even realise crocs lived in the Ganges for a start!

Work was also a concern – going on the trip meant turning down a big project.

Eventually I decided that I would be stupid to miss such an opportunity for adventure because it really ticked all my boxes – for adventure, life experience, new culture, endurance and photography. The opportunity was just sitting there, waiting for me. All I had to do was just reach out and take it. My friends and family were telling me I’d be an idiot to not go. So I booked my flights and made it official!

The trip itself had many ups and downs and even some dark days due to complete exhaustion. But this is exactly what I wanted! There were plenty of good times like realising I had passed 1000kms in an inflatable bathtub, but it’s the dark days that actually stood out more for me. I wanted to test myself - push through my boundaries and see how mentally and physically capable I am, to go to somewhere I had never been before and give myself a life challenge! It’s because of this that I came out the other side craving more, to see what I can do next!

Get out there!

Since returning from the trip, I am even more convinced that anything is achievable. I had no prior experience of endurance trips, yet now I’ve paddled 1200kms of one of the world’s longest rivers! And I’m craving more adventure!

It has reminded me how short life is and to not let opportunities pass us by easily. I have no regrets whatsoever. It’s been one of the best experiences of my life.

Another great aspect of the trip is that I had plenty of time to think.

So here’s a few things I wanted to share if you’re thinking of taking on a new adventure:

Take as many different opportunities as you can to do what makes you happy.

There’s no reward without sacrifice. Whether that may be time, money or something else, you have to weigh up your options and decide what you’re willing to sacrifice in order to accomplish something that could be life changing.


-   Speaking of money, don’t let expense put you off. My trip cost me a few thousand in total. Was it worth it? YES! As my dad says ‘You can’t take it with you!’.

-   Keep an open mind. Try not to have any preconceptions of what may or may not happen. Just take it all day by day, and at least try to smile and think of the good points through the hard times and give gratitude for being alive.


Tribe Stories Round Up - January 29 2017


Tribe Stories Round Up - January 29 2017

A weekly (most of the time!) round up of stories, events and projects coming out of the YesTribe.

Researched and written by Richard Potter.


On the 4th of May 2015 Tim MIllkin hopped on his bike in Reading, Berkshire and began a fantastic cycling journey around the World to Reading, Pennsylvania. Since then he's travelled 25,000 kilometres and have been on his bike for 628 days!

Tim is shortly due to start the second half of the trip which will take him from Ushuaia, Argentina to the finish. He's got 15 more countries to visit and another 25,000 kilometres to cover before he finishes in summer 2018. Go Tim!

You can find out more about Tim's trip on this website and you can also follow him on Facebook.


Dare2express is a charity that helps people with mental health conditions obtain grants for the cost of treatment. On Monday 13 March John Dennis, the founder of dare2express, will give a talk aimed to inspire people and offer courage through daily struggles from a child of suicide, a suicide survivor, severe depression and PTSD. John will also discuss tools he has used to fuel his love of life and of adventure again. 

For more details about the talk and to register for a free ticket, visit this website. You can also visit the website and Facebook page for dare2express. 

Have you been inspired by any of these stories? Do you have your own to share? We'd love to hear about it. The YesTribe is a community that is free to anyone who is looking to make life less restricted, more enjoyable, more interesting and more memorable. Your story doesn't need to be an endurance adventure: many of the YesTribe are making films, raising money for good causes and developing the community.

We'd love to hear from you: share your stories here at Say Yes More or join the YesTribe Facebook group to connect with fellow YesTribers.

Make life memorable, Say Yes More!  


Running 1000 miles with asthma


Running 1000 miles with asthma

I was diagnosed with asthma when I was a young boy and grew up managing my condition with inhalers, steroids and antibiotics. For 30 years of my life I believed I was limited when it came to physical activity and that I would always be susceptible to illness.

At 12:30am on 1st of January 2017 I left the New Year’s Eve party, changed into luminous yellow clothes, popped on my well worn running trainers and headed out to run my first mile of 2017. This year I’m raising £2 for every 1 mile I run throughout the year, with all funds donated to Asthma UK – and I’m aiming to run 1000 miles in total.

How did this come about?

In September 2016 I ran my first marathon. I thought about fundraising at the time but there was a big part of me that didn’t think I would ever make it to the starting line let alone finish the race, so I ran the Nottingham marathon for myself. As the weeks and months passed my confidence grew and about a month before the race I started to believe “I can do this”. The race went well and I finished under my goal time but I was not prepared for the post-race blues.

Six months had passed between signing up to the marathon and crossing the finish line, so it had become a significant part of my life. With it being over, I suddenly felt like there was something missing. I signed up for other races but I soon realised that it wasn’t having a race on the calendar that I missed - rather I was missing working towards something I deemed to be impossible.

Saying YES!

The most enjoyable part of my marathon experience was training, going out for a run and knowing that the miles were adding up to something. With that in mind and an impossible dream I said YES to a new challenge. This year, I want  every run to mean something and I also want to challenge myself by running 1000 miles which is double what I ran in 2016. Bring it on!

My intentions

Having overcome my own limiting beliefs, I hope that my story – and the next 999 miles I run this year - prompt other people to ask themselves what they think they can’t do and go out and give it a go. it’s true that success doesn’t always come overnight but with hard work I firmly believe we’re all capable of achieving more than we think.

The unknown

I’ve made a rough plan for the year and by May I aim to  have run more miles than I ran throughout the whole of 2016. After that point it’s all new to me and with that comes some fear. I’ve given up plenty of times before and to prevent this, I want to be held accountable for reaching my goal which is why I’m selling each mile so that I’m focused on running the next mile for whoever owns it.

I look forward to reporting back later in the year to let you know how far I’ve got. You never know - maybe we could go out for a mile at Yestival?!


You can buy a mile here or follow Tim on his journey to 1000 miles on these channels:
Facebook -
Twitter - @milebuyclub