A Couple of videos first though
“That little dog” – Spain/Portugal, by Jim (3:31)
“Can’t we get a more comfortable hobby” 2-up trail riding practice on an Africa Twin, by Jenny (0:38)
Hograost: June 2013 & 2014
…..the thought flashed across my panicking brain as I slammed the throttle shut and desperately stood on the rear brake – ‘we’re not going to make this, it’s an obstacle too far’ …..
Sadly on that occasion at the Hograost 2013 I was right, it was an obstacle too far. The gaping dip in the mud track on Salisbury Plain that appeared unexpectedly in front of us was not only more than my meagre off-roading talent could cope with, it also held a further sting in the tail in the form of a large rock which we somehow managed to land on (it’s called target fixation – stare at something and that’s where the bike goes). Shame really, we’d been doing so well up to then 2-up trail riding with some friends and a battered OS Map.
What is the Hograost and why after that experience and near catastrophic damage to our very expensive bike had we returned in 2014 for further punishment? Well, to say it’s a meeting of nutters on a grassy field with a portaloo would not be entirely inaccurate but wouldn’t begin to do justice to what is a great ‘fun’ meeting. Organised by Steve ‘the Bakerman’ Burbidge http://www.theadventurebaker.com/ and his lovely wife Becky it’s an annual weekend event near Andover. Camped in a field at the back of a pub several adventure bikers and 4WD affecionados gather each year to eat a pig (Hograost – get it) and pile into a marquee to watch Egyptian Belly Dancing, an Elvis impersonator and dance the night away to a vinyl disco and a full blown 70’s band complete with an ‘Afro’ topped lead singer and to watch Egyptian Belly Dancing (oh, did I mention that already)? Joined on the Saturday night by members of the Gateway Club Andover, any profits made over the weekend are donated to the club by Steve and Becky. It’s all topped off on a bleary eyed Sunday morning with a talk by a retired Colonel on subjects like ‘The Victoria Cross’ and ‘Nelson’s Navy’.
Over the weekend we form into small ‘teams’ and spend a day trail riding the ‘Lost Dog Rally’ looking for a series of some 40+ ‘lost dog posters’ pinned up all over the surrounding area. Think orienteering on a motorcycle and you’ve got it. Is it overly difficult? No (we just made it look that way). The lost dog rally really needs a bike and any bikers could come along. You don’t need a trail bike as such, even a road bike will do (although you might be chancing it a bit on a low slung Harley), you just do as much or as little of the Rally as you want. It’s more than worth it for the pig and the evening entertainment and many don’t do the rally bit at all.
How did we do in 2014? Well we came 2nd which was up one on our 2013 result – and we didn’t fall off. If you want a really fun weekend with fun people with the bonus of helping out a good cause at the same time, give it a go. You don’t even have to camp, there’s B&B’s locally.
Rocking up to the Film Festival on Bertie we were greeted by Austin Vince sat astride his ‘electrically assisted’ pushbike. Wearing his trademark ensemble of smart white overalls combined with shirt and tie and grinning from ear to ear he cried, “enjoy the weekend!” Five minutes later as we were struggled with the security net fitted over our luggage Austin cycled by again, pointed at the padlock we were unlocking and shouted, “you won’t need that here”. As he pedalled off across the grass we looked across the campsite, with its colourful array of tents, vehicles and people and said,’ you know what, this is going to be a good weekend’.
The Adventure Travel Film Festival is the brainchild of film-maker Austin Vince (http://www.austinvince.com/) and travel author Lois Pryce (http://www.loisontheloose.com/). They wanted to showcase great adventure travel films from all over the world. For Jenny and I this was our first visit and we weren’t disappointed. The weekend was rammed full of excellent films and informative workshops and the site was well suited to the event with great camping pitches and good eating facilities. The showers were ‘posh portables’ with plenty of hot water and the toilets were what we used to call ‘long drops’ when I was in the Army. (The ‘Travel Writing’ workshop given by Phoebe Smith of Wanderlust http://tinyurl.com/po3aptm said never use toilet humour in an article so I’ll hold off on the obvious jokes).
A ‘village green’ provided a great area for people to chill out and meet up. Flanked on 3 sides by a bar (well attended), a BBQ, a coffee stand and an open sided marquee and laid out with picnic benches (who ever knew you could get flat pack picnic benches) the village green had a friendly relaxed atmosphere and was well used throughout the weekend. One of the highlights of the weekend for me and Jenny was the open air ‘Starlight Screening’ each evening. A huge screen showing a great film under a starry sky (well under a sky anyway) was watched each evening by a big crowd. Well equipped with an array of camping chairs and blankets we would have all made a strange sight if it hadn’t been so dark you couldn’t see us – great fun and the only thing missing was an interval with popcorn and ice creams.
Throughout the weekend we saw films that left us in awe of the adventures people had undertaken and the quality of the film making they had achieved at the same time. Had you ever contemplated the idea of riding across Russia, Mongolia and China on recumbent bicycles? We hadn’t but Tim Cope and Chris Hatherly had; they did it and made a 52 minute film of their adventure. If two wheels isn’t your bag how about two legs? Alastair Humphreys and Leon McCarron set off across Oman and walked through the Empty Quarter dragging a sled with 300kg of food and water on it. Motorcycles, mopeds, wheelchairs, canoes, donkeys, planes, cars, on foot – if it could be used for adventure it was filmed and it was at the festival. Throughout the weekend there was no shortage of inspiring films on show including thought provoking pieces giving insights into rarely seen communities.
When not watching a film, rubbing shoulders with adventure book authors or chatting with other festival goers, there were a variety of adventure stands to go round including the one from James Cargo to whom we shall soon be entrusting our 1200cc steed for its journey to Buenos Aires.
So a great weekend; entertaining, informative and friendly. We were glad we went and it was well worth the price of the tickets (£110 each including breakfasts and dinners). If you haven’t been to the ATFF before we would thoroughly recommend it. Watch out though, it sold out this year so you might want to be near the front of the queue for 2015! We’d join you next year for the fun and the fellowship but we’ll be on our adventure somewhere in the America’s – maybe 2016?
Horizons Unlimited: 19-22 June 2014