Why am I doing an expedition?

26 Jul

Howdy folks,

I thought I best explain

1. Why I’m doing a human powered expedition?

2. Why in Africa and why a working expedition? (The only stupid question is a question not asked)

3. Why human-powered?.

I suppose I could save you all 15 minutes of your lives and have said “why not”, but there’s more to it than that for me. Here goes………oh yeah, apologies in advance for my weird use of metaphors that refer to haemorrhoids and STI’s)

Why I’m I doing an expedition?

Like every other continent (except Antarctica) I could have bought a plane ticket to Africa, found myself a room to rent, a place to work or an organisation to volunteer for, made friends in the local community, joined a sports team, hung out with my new friends, and lived happily this way for months on end. Then once finished work I could have gone backpacking through Africa. But I have been there and done that. Don’t get me wrong, I loved every minute of it (nearly every minute of it, those minutes in hospitals, a jail cell, bent over a toilet bowl vomiting with food poisoning weren’t that enjoyable).

I was craving a new challenge in my working the world quest. During 2008 whilst working in the Australian outback I followed my mate’s brother Rob Thomson as he skateboarded through Europe, North America and China on the way to breaking the world record for the longest unassisted skateboard journey. And like hemorrhoids I developed an itch to do something expedition-like and I knew I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if I lay in my coffin thinking “damn hemorrhoids! Wish I had done something about them………I mean, damn expedition, I wish I had of done that”). Like the saying I learnt back at Outward Bound—live life with no regrets.


During 2009 when I was living in South America I met many people who were on their own expeditions, like Keith, motorcycling from Alaska to Argentina, and Swede Carl-David who was cycling from Ushuaia up to Colombia. I kept feeling that itch, and like an STD, I just tried to ignore it hoping it would go away.


At the end of 2009 I overcame the biggest obstacle of my working the world journey. After nearly 3 years of rejection I gained work in Antarctica. I remember when I first set foot on the great white continent feeling a sense of immortality (in a mortal kind of way). It was a great big feeling that anything is possible!


After finishing work on the Antarctic cruise ship, I was doing the 8 day Torres Del Paine hike in Southern Chile. I was wondering how the next chapter of my working the world journey would be and what I would do. As fate would have it, I hiked with a Kiwi couple who looked after me as I suffered from severe vomiting and diarrhea in the harsh Patagonian environment. During one of the long days of hiking before my illness, they told me about an expedition grant given to young New Zealanders that they themselves had won back in 2004. Craig and Ros used this grant to complete their Mekong River challenge, following it from source to sea.


On the long gruelling days, battling the Patagonian wind and listening to the rain as I laid in my tent, vomiting out the door, my mind was racing about this grant and the possibilities of what kind of expedition I could do in Africa.

After the hike, I nursed my bowels back to health with a burger and a beer in Puerto Natales, the little town closest to the Torres Del Paine national park. Whilst I was there the Banff Mountain Film festival was in town, showing right across the road from my cold concrete hostel. There I watched the documentaries of extreme sport athletes—all living their dreams. They were doing amazing things: kayaking rivers, free climbing crazy cliff faces, and cliff jumpers doing a first jump into a crater-like hole in China.

On the 66 hour bus ride from Puerto Natales to Mendoza in Northern Argentina, I committed to my Africa chapter as being an expedition. My original plan was to make a documentary and for my expedition to be a summit, source, sea: summiting Kilamanjaro, going across land by skateboard to north west Zambia to the source of the Zambezi and then rafting the 3,500km Zambezi to the Mozambique coast line where I would find work building a school for a village.

But like all ideas, they change, and now the plan is to cycle through Southern Africa. This decision was inspired by the commitment I’ve made to my expedition charity, Bicycles for Humanity, who work in connection with African based BEN (Bicycle Empowerment Network). The exact route and details of the expedition will still depend on several variables: where the work I will do is located, who else I get involved in the expedition, sponsorship etc. Of course you can follow all that here on my blog as it unfolds and even give me your input. Enjoy the ride folks!

Why Africa? Why working?

I suppose it’s due to my goal. Without my goal to live and work in every continent of the world before 30 I wouldn’t have done many things. I wouldn’t have my Taekwondo black belt, I wouldn’t be able to speak Spanish, I wouldn’t have seen Kiwi golfer Michael Campbell win the US open, or been to Ernest Shackleton’s resting place. Also, I wouldn’t have been to many places: Antarctica, Guatemala, Kentucky, Ibiza, Mexico, the Australian outback, Paris, The Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, and Japan, to name a few.


When I started my goal, I had spent the entirety of my 21 years in the Australasian continent. Even though my first destination was Asia, Africa was the continent that I was most fond of, the one that had fuelled my dreams of travel. I remember my well travelled English boss in Vancouver, Canada telling me “Hap, save Africa for last, it’s amazing!”. So although I haven’t planned it that way, it seems I have done it–saved the best for last.

Why human powered?

Apart from the cost and the different experience one gets from a bicycle seat as opposed to sitting in a bus or car, the main reason I was inspired to make my expedition human powered was because of Robert Swan. Robert was the first man to go unassisted to both the north and south poles, and since then has dedicated his life to educating the worldabout climate change and what we can do to decrease our carbon footprint. I’m not trying to make myself out to be a big environmentalist who’s saving the planet, but I believe that at some point we all have to stop taking from the world and give a little back. It was Robert’s passion and drive “for a better world” that inspired met to make my expedition human powered and charity based.


Having read his book, and having met him in person (I basically stalked him…..twice) and seeing what a down to earth guy he is made such a big difference to me. I made a promise to him that I would help him in his quest. I’ll work towards offsetting my Antarctic carbon emissions by using my skinny sticks instead of fossil fuels in my African expedition, in theory off-setting one continent with another.

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2 Responses to “Why am I doing an expedition?”

  1. jerm July 27, 2010 at 6:54 pm #

    Sounds awesome bro! Will be following for sure!

    • Hap July 28, 2010 at 4:40 am #

      chur bro, hope the scaffy is going well out west. Rocks are all good here.

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