As far as overland expo’s and festivals go, it’s not very often we find ourselves in the right place at the right time. So imagine our delight when we discovered that the Adventure Travel Film Festival (ATFF) was only one day away and then to discover it was located just 30minutes down the road! I nearly wet myself with excitement. Unfortunately due to the late notice (and lack of funds) we could only attend on Friday evening. Our ‘for one night only’ attendance didn’t dispel our enthusiasm for the event and excitedly we hit the road.
On arrival we were welcomed by the naturally charismatic, overalled and recently named ‘Overlander of the Year’ by Expedition Portal, Austin Vince. Austin’s warm welcome set the tone for the evening.
Austin however is only one half of the organising duo. Lois Pryce in her own right is a truly inspirational woman. Between them they have accomplished some great achievements. Austin was one of the first Europeans to traverse the Zilov Gap by motorcycle and reach Magadan after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This amazing feat predates Ewan and Charlie’s ‘Long Way Round’ trip by nearly 10 years. Lois is an accomplished writer, banjo picker and in 2003 rode a little Yamaha XT225 from the northernmost tip of Alaska to the southernmost tip of South America, solo!
Clearly both Lois and Austin have a penchant for the vintage; this is reflected in Austin’s love of 70’s overalls and Lois’ love of historic expeditions and vintage British motorcycles. Something Emma can relate to as her late Grandfather (also a well travelled inspirational man) had three exceptionally clean Vincent’s; a Black Prince, a Comet and a little 45cc Firefly.
This was the 3rd annual ATFF and it’s clear that Austin and Lois, along with an army of volunteers, know how to throw a party. The camping ground, full of adventure bikers, cyclists and a few overlanding 4x4’s was home to the 700+ crowd for the weekend; obviously, the audience sharing the same authentic passion for adventure as the organisers.
Lois and Austin’s love of retro is also reflected in the appearance of the vintage cinema bus. The bus is a slice of cinema and automotive history, a truly unique vehicle.
The festival is complimented with a schedule of workshops, seminars, displays, trade-stands and cooking competitions and demos. We attended Louise Wilson’s ‘Blogging from the Road’ presentation. The seminar was aimed at blogging virgins, albeit we managed to get a few new ideas to improve our own blog and website. We had the chance to have a little chat with both Louise and her partner David, you can download the interview here.
Of the 15+ films that were screened over the weekend we only managed to catch Gaurav Jani’s very Indian ‘One Crazy Ride’. A tale of overloaded motorcycling camaraderie through the uncharted ‘roads’ of the Himalayan state of Arunachal Pradesh, in north-eastern India. The film is a touching story of brotherhood (and sisterhood) in the face of unforgiving terrain.
On our return home we decided to purchase and download a few of the featured films.
Tom Allen’s incredibly life affirming and at times raw and introspective ‘Janapar’ is an emotive story that gives the viewer a real insight into the struggles faced by solo long distance bicyclists. Beautifully shot, edited and with a well-crafted soundtrack this tale is more than just a travel film, it is a good old-fashioned love story that never fails to move!
An unexpected late addition to the program was a talk given by an unpaid Ben Fogle entitled ‘The Accidental Adventurer’. Like many people attending I was unaware of the extent of his achievements. This quote from the synopsis of the book with the same name highlights some of his greatest.
“He has rowed across the Atlantic, walked to the South Pole, run the Sahara and skated across Sweden. He has encountered remote tribes-people in deepest Papua New Guinea, caused a Boeing 747 to dump £100k of fuel before making an emergency landing in Sao Paolo, and been mistaken for Prince William on numerous occasions.”
Despite his Royal doppelgänger I think he missed the irony in denying he was posh as during his talk he “poo-pooed an idea” and “had blisters on his bottom”. Despite my internal sniggers, Ben Fogle has an endearing character and is a great public speaker. After hearing him talk I had a newfound respect for him. We also missed a great photo opportunity with him as I was in the queue for the burger stand!
On its own admission and to its credit the ATFF is by no means a big Hollywood affair, I’ve certainly never heard of long-drop compost toilets in Cannes! And that is what makes this event so great. The 5-point manifesto states one of the aims of the ATFF is to bring together the adventure travel community. This criteria is certainly met.
The festival has undoubtedly inspired us to think more about increasing and improving the quality of our own films. Our time back in the UK will give me a chance to catalogue and edit the hundreds of hours of footage we’ve shot so far. Maybe we’ll see our names in LED camp lights at next year’s event!
Incidentally if you missed this festival you don’t have to wait a year before the next one just hop on a plane, jump on your bike, paddle your canoe or fire up your 4x4 and head to the Australian or U.S. leg, the latter being part of Overland Expo. If not, see you next year in Dorset!
When travelling it’s often the spontaneous events, the unplanned, the chance meetings and getting lost which result in the most memorable experiences.
When venturing disorientated through the heights of the High Atlas we found ourselves having to make a hasty stop to let Bee-bee’s overworked brakes cool down. We unavoidably blocked the street in a tiny Berber village; “Mafi Mushkele” (“no problem!”) came the jovial response from a group of men carrying out maintenance work on a clay and stone house.
The reek of burning brakes emanating from the car must have signalled that we weren’t moving anywhere for a while. As the workmen downed tools, accompanied by a chatter of Arabic and some gestures, we understood them to be inviting us into their home and to join them for breakfast.
Berber mountain houses are unassuming, clay and stone dwellings with several small rooms surrounding a central courtyard. We stooped through a low doorway into a sparse room with only a low table, a TV and a hazardous gas burner balancing a kettle. The seven of us made ourselves comfortable on plastic woven matting while a shy woman ushered into the room timidly carrying a tray of food. Warm, soft, homemade bread was torn, shared and dipped into clear, rich, nutty Argan oil harvested from the surrounding hills. A small plate of salty goats butter with a distinct pungent blue-cheese taste was also generously applied to chunks of bread amidst chatter, gesticulations and excited pointing and animated discussion over our photo album from home. Breakfast was washed down with copious glasses of mint tea from a seemingly bottomless pot; the hot gunpowder tea and green-flecked infusion so sweet it made your gums twinge.
As we left, youngsters scampered down the road with makeshift toys consisting of plastic bottles on wheels attached to a long stick. They weave and steer down the bumpy track with the skill and pride comparative to a child with the latest super-powered luxury radio controlled toy car hundreds of miles away.
The people expected nothing in return, a sharp contrast to the streets of Marrakech and Fes where just asking for directions comes with a price. Children here were not the cocky, street-savvy, dirham-hankering kids of the cities but shy and wary, peeping over walls in their ‘fun-size’ traditional dress. We departed leaving small gifts of notebooks and pencils for the children which the family reluctantly but appreciatively accepted; a small token incomparable to the memorable hospitality and welcome we had received. It put smiles back on our previously stressed faces as we fired-up Bee-bee and lurched ahead on our uncharted way.