In the thousands of years that preceded this century, human beings and their forebears have always sought the perils and rewards that exploration and adventure brings. Hunters, nomadic herders and agriculturalists searched for new lands; the Vikings launched their longboats to who knows where; and traders led caravans along the Silk Road.  

In more modern times, in the developed world, we have continued this seemingly insatiable trait, with space exploration costing millions of dollars, round the world yacht races and voyages costing a small fortune. There have been stunts by rich blokes like Richard Branson, indulging their 'adventure' fantasies; and in our world the Ewan and Charlie not much left to chance journeys.

Time for a bit of r&r between films

But! There are those among us who eschew big budget adventure, and seek to journey the planet in the most innovative, eccentric, cheap and courageous ways possible. Often recording their exploits on film; made easier with access to today's relatively low-cost, small and portable technology.    

Four years ago two motorcycle adventurers Austin Vince and Lois Pryce decided to launch a film festival – Adventure Travel Film Festival (ATFF) - to showcase the many independent and spectacular films they had collected from people throughout the world. Austin and Lois are well known for their irrepressible appetites for motorcycle journeys that can make you gasp at their audacity. For example Lois's solo trips from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, Sahara to South Africa and more recently a trip to Iran

Austin and his friends opened up the 'wrong way round' route through Russia and Siberia, trips through the Sahara, and organising off road escapades in the Pyrenees for those on two wheels to taste and experience trails and navigation across spectacular terrain

And so it was that I was (easily) persuaded by 'veteran' film festival goers to sign up for this years event, and take the long ride from Yorkshire to Sherborne, Dorset with borrowed camping gear strapped on the bike.  

Table talk

The event is held at Sherborne Girls School. One of those boarding establishments attempting to launch fortunate young women into their post educational world. Fortunate because the boarding fees will extract ten grand per term from parents, while day fees are set at a mere seven grand (per term). But a consequence of this for us campers was the lovely sports field we had to pitch our tents on.

The 'Village Green'

It's a small festival by today's standards...around seven hundred attending. Which means the important facilities that all festival goers comment on, toilets and washing services, are not mobbed. There's space, and for softies like me you can book breakfast and dinner in the school dining rooms thus avoiding carrying supplies and cooking equipment. However the group of friends amongst whom I pitched my tent had turned up well prepared, and cooked up a storm twice a day.

The great camp fire cook off

Nice BMW rig

Because Austin, Lois and the ATFF have a following among touring and adventure riders, the camping field was scattered with a large contingent of motorcyclists. The ubiquitous big BMs, but some very nice looking idiosyncratic older trail and off road tourers too.  

Functional trailies

On registering, the 'goody bag' I was given not only contained the essential film brochure, timetable and other information. But also a Wemoto neck tube which became a familiar sight as neck wear and head gear that compensated for the drop in temperature in the evenings when people gathered for the starlight screening on 'the village green'. Then as the light faded from the screen, de-camped to a roaring camp fire.

BIG camp fire

There were a number of 'must see films' I wanted to attend from the point of view of motorcycle interest and to let Wemoto News readers know what is out there. Some films were on the programme on both days, including the one that was recommended: 'C90 Adventure: Malaysia to UK' a trip undertaken by Ed March in 2011 by shipping his Honda C90 to Malaysia and 'simply' riding it back.

Now showing in the Main Hall...

Excerpts of the different countries and stages have been a You Tube favourite. Not least because of Ed's somewhat whacky humour and observations: but it was now a complete film/DVD, and I missed it because the showing I chose on the Sunday was so popular they closed the doors after cramming as many people in as possible. I've since treated myself to You Tube clips, in the comfort of my home as they say

Also on the programme was  'Continental Drift'. Two friends riding their KTM's from London to Sydney. It seems churlish to say, but this was a fairly conventional long distance adventure. Although not without its moments of difficulty at border crossings, tough terrain, and break downs when cheap fuel and KTM fuel pumps didn't get on – spares sent from UK.

Travellin' Light

My favourite film turned out to be an Australian production entitled 'The Ride'. Four disabled wheelchair users who had been in serious enduro and moto cross crashes as young men, suffering neck and spinal injuries. They decided to convert quad bikes to carry wheelchairs and travel to the outback to visit the places where they had been injured. It was story of enduring courage, emotion and humanity,  from four likeable Aussie blokes. Lovely stuff, get the DVD for your club or to watch with friends It's won awards.

The other bike journey was another C90 trip. This time along the Ho Chi Minh trail in Vietnam. The jungle supply route used by the North Vietnamese to supply their army fighting the US and South Vietnamese. It was made by a woman, Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent, who has adventuring form. She's previously ridden to the Arctic Circle on a Russian Ural, and driven a tuk tuk three wheeler from Bangkok to Brighton.

Ant, as she likes to be known, was speaking about her journey illustrated with pictures. Some us weren't sure what to expect, but decided to give it go, and enjoyed an hour or so in her company with a packed audience. Her talk was humorous, self deprecating, and full of humility and understanding of the people, history and culture she encountered I bought her book of the trip 'A Short Ride in the Jungle' - available through Amazon if you can stand dealing with them.

It wasn't all bikes of course. There was the woman who walked a thousand miles around Wales in the company of Chico, her donkey  Two gritty young Brits who put up a thousand pounds each to travel to Oman and film their journey through the Empty Quarter, a stretch of desert made famous by the travels of the explorer Wilfred Thesiger. They couldn't afford camels so they had a cart made to carry their gear, and pulled it across this punishing and very hot landscape.

Enfield in travel mode

Then there was 'Off The Rails' the toughest of all adventures by two young Australians on recumbent cycles: the ones you lie back in and peddle. They rode their contraptions across Russia, Siberia and Mongolia to Beijing. A truly inspirational tale  

Across all these stories several themes stood out: adversity, as both a philosophical and practical challenge. Planning and embarking on these adventures you know the limits of psychological and physical endurance will be tested; and how you cope is a measure of the journey. Best summed up in the homily 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger'.

In many countries rapacious development is dramatically altering the landscape and lives of people whose lives and villages are 'in the way' of people who want to mine, drill, farm,and log. I remember interviewing the solo motorcycle explorer Ted Simon just after his book 'Dreaming of Jupiter' (2008) replicating the original 1970's round the world voyage 'Jupiter's Travels'. He told of an overriding sadness at the way the lives of people in countries he re-visited had changed...and not for the better.

Relaxed campers, nice bikes

The other significant message that shone through was 'the kindness of strangers'. The hospitality of the mostly very poor people who helped travellers when they were tired, hungry, injured, lost or stuck was generous, and in inverse proportion to the material wealth and food they had or needed for themselves. We are made to feel afraid by the hype, drama and prejudices that the conventional media pours forth every day, especially about 'foreigners'. The stories from these adventurers showed that compassion, sharing and cooperation can be found in the remotest settlements, villages, and the bustling cities.

If you want more information about the festival and want to share some of this atmosphere at next year's event go to

Happy travelling.      

John Newman

for Wemoto News

Any thoughts or comments email us at
Posted by John Newman
for Wemoto News on 27 August 2014 in Events

Edited By: Lucy England



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