Category Archives: Africa

The Christmas Letter 2014

It’s that time again when I try to remember where the year has gone and what I’ve been doing. Once again it’s been a rather varied year – with only a couple of lows in between numerous highs.

As the closure of the synthetic rubber factory where I worked for almost three years in the south of England loomed, the first half of the year was rather quiet on the travel front as I tried to save money for the approaching unemployment. While I was never too concerned with how I’d cope with losing my job (other adventures & parts of the world beckoned), it turned out to be very difficult seeing the demise of a plant that had been going for over fifty years and about one hundred and thirty people lose their jobs. The last few months after production ceased were particularly tedious – but I enjoyed throwing myself into my study of the Italian language (which I’d started learning at work at the end of 2013).

The exception to the difficult first seven months of the year with little happening (except riding bikes – I was still doing that, of course; the highlight was finally riding the South Downs Way) was May. Mum visited for almost six weeks and Adele was also over for three weeks of that. There were plenty of little trips here & there, as I tried to show Adele a bit of Europe and a holiday that didn’t include some sort of extreme adventure. Highlights were a long weekend with Mum in Barcelonafive days in Paris with both Mum & Adele; a rushed weekend showing London to Adeletaking Adele up to Scotland to visit a friend and do a little bit of hiking; and finally, a fantastic family wedding in Tuscany – with plenty of enjoyable time with extended family, some sightseeing, great food & wine and some hiking in the Chianti hills.

Tweed RunWe came across the Tweed Run in London. It was all rather odd, but looked a lot of fun.

Glasgow – I was pleasantly surprised to be so impressed.

Ben NevisOn top of the UK – most of the way up Ben Nevis was really nice, it was only a little bleak at the top.

San GimignanoBack in San Gimignano.

Work finally finished at the end of July – I promptly moved back to (the ever dependable and hospitable) cousin Trish’s in London the following day and took ten days preparing for three months of bikepacking (backpacking on a bike – minimal luggage carried compared to traditional cycle touring to enable more off-road riding) of west-Europe, with two months touring Italy being the main goal. I had hoped to do a big cycle tour of Europe in 2015 before moving back to NZ, but with work being what it was the timing changed.

In the end I only managed three weeks and two-thousand kilometres of touring, as I found the wet August and mud in Belgium was not much fun – after a week of that I was getting tired of solo-touring. Having said that, there were plenty of good times and highlights – including some of the people I met along the way; visiting a huge old ironworks in the Saarland (sad, I know); my birthday spent in Strasbourg; the Jura mountains (in France, near the Swiss border) and best of all: crossing the Alps into Italy over the same pass my grandfather rode over on his Euro cycle tour sixty-five years before me – that was a very special & memorable day.

All ready to leave.

I quite liked what I saw of Antwerp.

Another night, another forest, another wild-camp-site.


On the shores of Lake Geneva.

Pretty happy to be at Great St Bernard Pass – four hours of steady, but rarely difficult, climbing.

I’d organised (about a week beforehand) to stay a week working on a vineyard in the Aosta Valley (the most north-west province of Italy, in the Alps bordering both Monto Bianco & Monto Rosa) – in exchange for my labour, I would get food & board. I enjoyed the food (so much pasta, cheese, wine, grappa & all manner of things from the garden); the work (it was harvest season – so we mostly picked grapes and I learnt to make wine); trying to practice my Italian speaking; mountain scenery & lifestyle; hiking in the Alps; and most of all, the wonderful people I met and got to know. Although I left to see more of Italy, after a day by myself it seemed rather pointless leaving such good friends (& food) to have to worry where I was going to put my tent each night as the autumn weather deteriorated – so I returned to the vineyard. I ended up staying almost four weeks in total.

A day spent looking at Monto Bianco while we hiked.

If I ever got bored of the work in the vines, the scenery was always worth looking at and appreciating.

All of sudden October was free – so I hastily arranged for another visit to East Africa and close friends Adrian & Carmen, as it’s so much easier & cheaper to visit from London than NZ. Biking around Kilimanjaro was fantastic and we went up to Kenya to visit friends – the camping trip was unusual. I’m still not sure what scared me more – camping with ten children under the age of five or the injured lion we had resident in our campsite for much of the weekend.

Our lion friend for the weekend.

Back in England for November, it was a mixture of winter cycle touring saying goodbye to friends & family in the south & south-west and trying to pack my life up to move back to NZ. It was great to see so many people that have been a big part of my life for the last five or so years, sad to say goodbye of course.

As of December, I’m back in NZ – hopefully for good. For now, I’m enjoying the sudden change from northern winter to southern summer (if you think twenty-four hours in a plane counts as sudden), being with family – especially for Christmas, getting plenty of riding in (it’s easily been my biggest year on a bike ever – approaching 7000 km on my mountain-bikes [of which, I now only have one left – the big heavy touring one]), and generally reacquainting myself with life in NZ.

I’ll slowly start looking for a job in the new year, hoping to find one that means I can live in a large town/small city that has easy access to good mountain-biking – I think then there would be a chance I may be able stay still for a while and not spend so much time and money on travelling…

Thanks to all that were along for the ride (literal or figurative) this year – whether providing food, a bed, travel opportunities, quality mountain-bike rides or simply time. Merry Christmas & a great 2015 to all.

Five and a half years

Well, my bike is packed up in its bag again, most of my possessions were collected yesterday for shipping back to New Zealand and, really, I’m a bit bored of packing. I leave London for NZ – five and a half years to the week after I left to see a little bit of the world – curious if I can settle back in a beautiful country far at the bottom of the globe. At the least, I should get a good summer of riding in. Over dinner with Trish at our favourite local Italian pizzeria the other night, there was plenty to reflect on – many excellent things, only two or three not so great happenings, all memorable.

So excuse me while I try to remember most of them and jot them down for posterity. Naturally I’ll start with the highlights in no particular order, as there are many.

As I delve into the archives, this is proving more difficult to narrow it down than I expected, …

My first port of call was the States – little did I know that would be the first of four visits and about six months in total in the country, it turns out the west is fantastic for scenery and mountain-biking.

A west-USA road-trip with plenty of mountain-biking was always a pipe-dream for when I was in my forties or fifties – thanks to living in Canada & the company of my aunt, Valerie, it became a reality much earlier.

The best biking holiday was my return to Moab last year – fantastic trails, great company & beautiful scenery – click on the photo above to watch the video Megan put together.

I also never intended to visit Africa four times, but somehow that happened. Each of the four safaris were quite different, but all excellent.

But the first one in the Masai Mara was the best.

Seeing the Pyramids on Christmas day was excellent – not very crowded either.

I only briefly went to Asia, on a visit to Turkey:

Gliding over the spectacular landscape of Cappadocia in a hot air balloon is indelibly in my memory.

Five weeks’ vacation almost five years ago in the Canadian Rockies saw me learn to ski, a bit, and then all of a sudden, living in Bow Valley for a year of mountain-biking in the summer and skiing in the winter.

Returning to the UK, I managed to settle into a job that I quite liked – that was, until the rather horrible drawn-out experience of plant closure & many redundancies. It was a good base for travels near & far while it lasted – the long, dry & hot summer of 2013 was especially good with many mountain-biking trips around the south-west. Always good to visit Taunton & also ride with my Somerset riding buddies, the Combe Raiders – whatever the weather.

That summer saw me enter a few biking events too – a six-hour solo (nice trail, but boring riding round & round the same thing for six hours), a couple of marathon events, & culminating in my first multi-day stage event.

That event, as you can probably tell from this photo taken while riding along, was in Africa.

Apart from the redundancy experience already mentioned, only two other notable low-points are worth bringing up. The mugging incident in San Diego the day after I left NZ is still the best if I ever have to tell one story from my travels. The ongoing shoulder dislocation saga was painful in a different way – but after four dislocations I had surgery and it’s been fine ever since.

With all the trips to North America & Africa, I perhaps didn’t see as much of Europe as I originally hoped. But I managed a fair few trips – with Italy being the most visited country, five times now I think. I also loved the time spent living in London wandering around all parts of the city & delving into the history. Due to the demise of work, my bikepacking tour of western Europe was brought forward to this year & shortened (& then shortened even more when I got sick of travelling alone in the August rain & mud).

Straddling the German-Belgian border somewhere.

One of the most pleasing & proud parts of the trip was crossing the Alps over Great Saint Bernard Pass – because my grandfather did the same on a bike sixty-five years ago.

Somehow I ended up spending four weeks living & working on a small vineyard in the north-west of Italy – eating a lot, hiking a bit, making new friends & thoroughly enjoying myself. Learning a second-language, Italian – thanks to work, was something I never thought I’d do – but it turned out I really enjoyed it.

Hiking near Monto Bianco.

Oh, almost forgot the whirlwind two-week trip back to NZ (the only one) for some friends’ wedding, and coincidentally my thirtieth birthday & many celebrations with friends & family all over the country. Hectic, but most enjoyable.

The visit also coincided with my shoulder being declared fit – so after six months of no biking, it was great to be active again – here skiing near Wanaka.

I’ll be back with these fine folks next week – hard to believe we’ll have our first Christmas all together since 2006.

That’ll do for unashamed self-indulgence – thanks to all the family & friends that made all this possible in many different ways (usually providing somewhere to sleep & plenty to eat). Biggest thanks goes to cousin Trish in London for repeatedly opening up her home to this often-vagabond – all this would not have been possible or lasted nearly as long otherwise.

Nakuru camping trip with a lion and ten pre-schoolers

I’m not sure what was scarier – the lion was definitely quieter and better behaved overall.

I had originally planned that my three week visit to Tanzania would not involve a lot of traveling around. That didn’t last long as I soon got wind of a plan to travel up to Kenya for a week – partly for visa reasons, but mostly to go camping with various friends to mark Tesni’s birthday over a long weekend.

Sean (Tesni’s husband) had booked a private campsite in Nakuru National Park for us all for the weekend. I visited this park with AD five years ago on my first trip to Kenya – I was looking forward to seeing how it appeared now that the drought had been broken and the lake was no longer empty. Highlights from last time were all the rhino sightings and a herd of buffalo wandering through our campsite.

The advance party of two families arrived Friday, having driven through a lot of rain. I decided to travel over on Saturday with Bobby & Brandy – mostly because the park and camping fees are exorbitant if one is not an East African resident, but also I don’t think I would have fitted in the Prado with all the camping gear the Maarschalks had. It was great to catch up with B&B on the drive over – I rode with Bobby for my RVO mountain-bike adventure last year. By the Saturday evening everyone had arrived – we totaled twelve adults and ten children under the age of five. No-one told me I was signing up for that last part!

Before we had left home on Saturday morning, word had leaked out that a lioness had made an appearance on the edge of the campsite around breakfast time and then proceeded to take up residence in a large tree about thirty metres from the tents! She had quite a limp on her, so I assume had left her pride after a fight with another animal. Apart from the Saturday night (we saw her leave that evening & return the next morning), she spent most of the weekend that close to our camp. Needless to say, this put us rather on edge – especially with so many young children around.

But it all worked out well, and probably helped in keeping the children roaming too far when there was who-knows-what-else in the long grass surrounding the camping. Obviously hungry lions are quite useful for keeping children in check. Contrary to what I thought before the weekend, the game drives weren’t the highlight of the weekend – we saw many flamingoes, giraffes, buffalo, antelope, baboons, zebra and some big rhinos, but they couldn’t compare to just staying in camp and watching and listening to the wildlife nearby.

As well as our lion resident, we had a lot of zebra, buffalo and baboons pass through at various times. But the unexpected sighting was the huge hippopotamus that wandered through Sunday night. I didn’t even know there were hippos in the park (they don’t like the lake as it is quite alkaline) and there was no water close to our campsite; I was pleased by the hippo sighting as the only one I’d previously seen in the wild was in the Masaai Mara five years ago – & it was just sitting in a pond barely visible.

Generally the days camping were passed eating an awful lot of good camp food (bananas stuffed with chocolate, wrapped in tin foil and baked on the side of the campfire may be better than even toasted marshmallows), keeping the children amused, game drives trying to find elusive leopards & other lions and spending time with good friends.

Once the children had gone to bed around nightfall things were quiet and dark enough to hear more lions roaring not that far away, hyenas barking and jackals making some sort of racket. Realising that there were so many children around, I had intended to put my tent well away from all the others so that I might actually get some sleep. But in light of the lion situation, that didn’t seem so prudent – so I put my tent so it was loosely surrounded by (sometimes) sleeping families. While I didn’t think I would get much sleep, this had the advantage of being less likely to be eaten. As it happened, I slept very well – especially considering the morning reports of very unsettled children making a lot of noise at regular intervals.

In all, a very different safari to what I’ve become used to – but it was still fantastic. Enough writing, pictures:

Crested eagle.

There’s a lion in that tree centre-rear of photo.

For those that thought climbing a tree would be a viable way to escape a lion, think again – even injured she made it up OK.

Lion-watching while an awful lot of mushrooms cook.

Braai time!

Still keeping an eye on our lion friend.

That’s me escaping to the Prado with Chloe as the lioness makes her way to her favourite tree.

Cycling around Mount Kilimanjaro

An important factor in rather suddenly deciding to come to Tanzania for three weeks was the opportunity to do a four day bicycle tour around Mount Kilimanjaro. I’ve discussed the possibility of climbing Kilimanjaro (at 5895 m the highest mountain in Africa & the highest free-standing mountain in the world) with numerous people over the last year, but each time the six days needed (at least, to allow for altitude acclimatisation) and the expense have counted against it as I’d rather spend the time and money I do have riding bikes. I’ve since been told the trek is more beautiful than imagined, so perhaps one day…

To save the ten-hour uncomfortable bus ride from Nairobi to Arusha, I flew into Kilimanjaro International after a change of planes in Ethiopia. It was a cloudy morning, so we couldn’t see much in the distance on approach – this made it all rather strange as a large 767 was put down seemingly in the middle of nowhere (the airport isn’t exactly near a town, in between two distant towns, Arusha & Moshi). An advantage I’ve found with flying with African airlines (EgyptAir & Ethiopian at least) is that they still have the large baggage allowance of two bags that North American airlines used to have – so my bike travels free and I still get to put another small bag in the hold, it makes packing and transferring so much easier.

Over a evening dining and watching rugby with friends I tried my best to stay awake after the overnight flight and little sleep. Somehow, my bike got assembled rather quickly the following morning as four of us went out for a short local ride – great fun finding trails that local villagers must have been walking over for generations. Parts of the landscape reminded me of the Badlands in both Alberta and South Dakota.

Due to other commitments, we missed the first day of the EduTours Africa four-day biking tour around Kilimanjaro. I didn’t mind too much as it was a short day of riding (only 27 km and a net ascent of just over a hundred metres) and I figured after the riding in August, I was probably still fit enough to cope with the rest of the tour. However, this did mean we had to get up at 4.30 the following morning to drive two and a half hours to the first night’s camp. By the time we arrived at Lake Chala, which is bisected by the Kenyan border, everyone else had eaten breakfast. Adrian and I had a quick look at the picturesque lake (in a crater) before eating, although I suspect the overcast skies detracted a little from the view – but it’s a beautiful place to stay all the same.

Before long, we were all on our bikes and heading up the camp driveway back to the road that would take us anti-clockwise around the mountain – that was covered in cloud. The others, Grant and Catherine – a wonderful couple from western Canada, had ridden down this hill the day before so knew to expect a 200 m climb back up over 7 km. The dirt road surface was good and riding in the countryside of a different country is always interesting – it was very rural with plenty of crops recently planted and many small banana plantations.

Once that initial climb was over, the rest of the first thirty kilometres was spent at about the same altitude – so it wasn’t too taxing as the day warmed up. There were plenty of locals out on the road and adjoining paths (which were so tempting to go & explore) on foot, motorbikes and ancient bikes carrying all sorts of loads. At one snack stop Gab (one of the two guides on the trip but on Landcruiser duty for the day) had a go on such a bike. With no pedals, minimal brakes and the load, he found it rather difficult!

Bike posing with our support vehicle – both remarkably capable over such terrain.

At this junction, the route turned up the hill for a 250 m climb up to lunch – thankfully the road became less corrugated than it had been for a few kilometres.

Past more banana trees.

We found ourselves in a small town, Mashati, on a busier sealed road and lunch was served. As I got used to over the few days – the food was great and plentiful for cycling – how Francis, the cook, managed to do so with such a basic travelling kitchen I’m still unsure. As well as plenty of meat, fresh fruit and veges there were ample carbs – on this day in the form of pasta & potato salad. While we ate, a heavy shower passed through the area; we waited it out and set out on the busier-than-a-dirt-road for the afternoon.

Before long the rain had returned and set in for at least a couple of hours; seldom heavy, it was persistent and we were all pretty wet – some more so than others. With more traffic there was a lot more to look at in this respect, especially as the landscape turned to forest from fields, and despite the rain all the locals were still out. Strange people riding strange bikes always seemed to be a source of amusement, especially for the children, and we exchanged many greetings and the few Swahili words we knew and many more phrases in English that the locals had learnt from somewhere and delighted in using somewhat out of context.

Still smiling.

As we got closer to the mountain, the road naturally kicked up a fair bit. Grant and Catherine were both in their early sixties and, while not regular cyclists, have found that they love to include a supported cycle tour on their travels to see different parts of the world. So while the 68 km and 1600 m of the day on roads was easy for me, especially with an unloaded bike, the afternoon’s pace was very slow & steady. But I was impressed with their fortitude and the turning down of the option of loading the bikes on the trailer and driving when we entered Rongai Forest as dusk approached & it was still raining. Eventually we arrived at our camp for the night, Snow Cap, under Kili just as it got completely dark – I’d left my lights at the house, thinking there was no way we’d have such long days.

After a pleasantly warm night camping, we awoke to find clear skies and finally I could see that Kili was actually real.

With a bit of oil on chains, we were soon off again.

The day’s riding started off fantastically as I found some nice singletrack through a forest next to the steep gravel road we’d climbed to finish the previous day. We were soon back on the sealed road, but nicely there was still little traffic on it – the traffic really dropped off when we’d passed near a border town the day before. It was only 24 km of seal, with a couple of hundred metres of climbing to start off with as we got near 2100 m and approached the Kenyan border before riding parallel right next to it for some time. It was a non-existent border on the ground – the only way I knew it was there was from looking at the map on my GPS.

At first, the plantation forest had been clear-felled and the locals had already cultivating the land with vegetable plots. The pine forest returned before we came across a lot of indigenous forest – in which we saw some Colubus monkeys and baboons.

A Colubus monkey, coloured rather like a skunk.

Back in the pines, AD spotted a augur buzzard.

As we descended rapidly, paths through the forest attracted attention and it was easy enough to go exploring some singletrack alongside the road before returning to the route. It was nice to break the sealed road up a bit and burn extra energy by taking these slight detours. Through another small town, we were back on a dirt road for the rest of the day – & this is where the day got really enjoyable. As well as a more bumpy surface, which at times near washes deteriorated noticeably and made for fun riding downhill, the villages became smaller and we were amongst a Maasai tribe – whose brightly colored shuka (the blankets they wear) are always attractive. Being more rural & less busy, the people seemed even friendlier as we passed people going about their days and children at school. Unusually for the Maasai, owing to a disastrous drought some years previous, this particular tribe has learnt to grow some crops.

It’s a reasonably flat football pitch, I suppose.

As the gradient turned to a more undulating one and the forests were gone, the views out over to Kenya really opened up. We spent most of the time gazing over Amboseli National Park; known for its elephant population, some of them have been forced to come up towards Kili looking for food due to recent droughts – a huge pile of elephant dung was spotted on the side of the road.

With fun little downhills, some off-road excursions for me, and manageable climbs we continued on in a mix of cloud and sun – with a slight breeze, it was perfect cycling weather.

Returning to the road after finding rocky trails and a herd of goats.

Frequently I waited, occasionally I posed for photos.

We went back into the forest again for a while.

A few tractors started to appear to help plough the fields.

As we started to get a bit peckish, the Landcruiser passed us and went and set up lunch on the side of the road. Another good spread for hungry cyclists looking out over the road to Amboseli stretching before us.

Continuing on we rounded the base of a hill I was glad that we didn’t have to climb, and seemed to leave the Maasai lands behind. With a brief stop around the time we passed land that was being farmed commercially, we looked back to see a big black cloud starting to dump rain over a small area behind us.

Said cloud started to move towards us and I felt the first few drops. The road stretched before us and just freewheeling I quickly found myself in front of the others.

Faced with the very real prospect of the heavens opening on me and me being many minutes in front of the truck and my rainjacket, I decided I had a fair chance of beating the weather to the campsite if I rode fast enough and didn’t stop. Maybe I wasn’t that concerned, as I spent a lot of time riding next to the road on long sections of singletrack. Passing through a very large herd of goats crossing the road, I was back on the road for the rest of my riding day. As the black cloud and large drops continued to menace me, Simba Farm Campsite popped up on the screen of my GPS & I was saved – which was just as well as there was no sign on the side of the road. I rolled down the more-used dirt driveway to a house and established with next to no Swahili that I was in the right place; just as I put my bike under a lean-to, the rain began tipping down and I ran to the house mostly dry.

It is the short rainy season at the moment, but unusually early, so the rain was only supposed to last ten to fifteen minutes. But it stretched on rather lengthily for close to three-quarters of an hour, before finally stopping – at which time the rest of the group that I’d abandoned turned up absolutely soaked and covered in claggy mud from the driveway. As the day was about sixteen kilometres shorter than we’d been told, we arrived with plenty of daylight left so after the others cleaned up we had time to wander to a brilliant sundowner spot.

Simba Farm is vast – about 7500 acres/3000 hectares, and in an absolutely spectacular setting. They run sheep and beef, and grow wheat, barley (for the local Kilimanjaro lager), beans and vegetables for supply to lodges and shops in Arusha.

The western end of Kili hiding as the sun set.

Mt Meru from the opposite side to which I’m used to seeing it.

Ambling back down the hill after the sun had gone, we found that our drinks order of Kilimanjaros and bottles of wine had been delivered (the main lodge is five miles down the road). Sipping more well-earned drinks the sky cleared as we spotted various constellations and the Milky Way and a stunning full moon rose over Kili. I thought I ate a lot of another grand dinner, but I woke at three on a warm night absolutely famished. This was surprising as the day’s riding wasn’t particularly onerous – sixty-eight kilometres again, but with only about half the climbing (about 850 m), a net descent (about 250 m) and a third on sealed road. But maybe I should just eat even more, it all seems to disappear somewhere – mad as it seems.

When I was awake in the middle of the night, it had clouded over – but on getting up just after six, it was clear again so we walked back up the hill to see the sun rise over Kili.

Shira, the lowest of the Kili’s three peaks – at 3962 m it’s a lot lower than the highest summit.

The sun starting to hit Meru.

The sunlight making its way onto the stunning jacaranda trees, as we wait for breakfast.

With only about fifty kilometres to ride on the fourth and final day of the trip, it was about nine before we set off – thankfully, the driveway had dried up overnight.

The first twenty kilometres of the day was excellent – trending downhill on fast dirt roads, that were nicely rutted in places to make things fun. All day the stunning views of Meru continued over to our right. The first major village/small town we hit was an interesting sight with it bustling with life and all the shops and services so different to what the Canadians were used to. The welding on the street side, primitive tyre shop, butcher and so forth were things we’d seen before – but not all together in such close proximity with so much life buzzing around.

For ten kilometres, the surface became rather corrugated – & at the slow, steady pace of our group it became a little tedious. But large wheels sure help, as did occasional off-piste excursions to find smoother surfaces. For morning (rather, noon) snack stop we finally got a group photo – although Kili is hiding again.

To finish the four-day ride, it was sealed road losing a fair bit of altitude passing through more villages. For kilometres either side of large villages there was an excellent path beside the road that I delighted in bombing down, weaving back on to the road whenever there was a small bridge to go over, hopping off things and just generally stretching my legs more than I had the previous hours.

We passed through the village that Gab grew up in & rather fortuitously met his father crossing the road (there were a lot of people milling about, so it was quite the coincidence); it was market day, so people had come from the hills all around to sell various produce and firewood.

Millet drying in the sun – a not uncommon sight on our last section of the ride.

With not nearly as much traffic on the sealed road as what we’d been warned about, it was a nice ride down to our finish point the road we were on joined the busy road back to Arusha. With bottles of Kilimanjaro and other favourite local lagers, we celebrated the four-day trip around Kili that Grant & Catherine completed (I’m still so impressed, I sure hope that I’m still riding mountain bikes around the world when I’m in my sixties) – in total it was about 215 kilometres with close to 3000 metres of climbing. AD & I did a little less than that after having missed the short first day.

With lunch over, the bikes were loaded on the trailer and we headed back to Arusha – what a great ride with so many different sights of this wonderful country. I still maintain that bikes are one of the best ways to explore new places – you see so much and can still interact with the people and landscape so much more than in a car. Thanks AD for inviting me along, and special mention to Carm who stayed at home with the kids while we were off having fun and adventuring.