Day 386 – ENGLAND: From Couldon to Portsmouth

A big event happened today in the 14degrees Journey – I hitch hiked for the first time, ever. The plan is to hitchhike down to La Rochelle, France, and hang about there for a while trying to find someone to let me come aboard their yacht as crew. Any yacht will do, so long as it’s going across the Atlantic.

Htichiking today was easy. Holding a cardboard sign indicating where I wanted to go, I got to Portsmouth in three rides. Had a few cars pretend to stop and just as I was picking up my pack drive off, but apart from that people were very nice.

The plan was to try to hitch a rice onto a truck so that I could get from Portsmouth to St. Malo in France for free across the Channel. I had tips that this was doable, but I didn’t have the guts to stand right outside the terminal entrance with my thumb out (photo below). After much umming and ahhing, I finally shelled out 28 Euros for a ticket on LD Lines ferry to La Havre. Not too bad considering I bought the ticket at 9pm and the boat was leaving at 10:30pm.

Cargo entrance at Portsmouth ferry terminal, England

I slept for most of the night on the open deck because inside was stuffy and hot.

Ferry from Portsmouth, England, to La Havre, France

Day 385 – ENGLAND: Sailing in East Grinstead

Ailsa has friends in Couldon just south of London who own a Laser 2 Regatta sailboat. Ailsa and her flatmate and I went down there for a bash at the Weir Wood Sailing Club’s reserviour with Paul and Elise. Paul expertly showed me the ropes, and despite the fact that a sailboat that goes across the Atlantic is just a tad bit different from the little Laser 2, I feel as though i got a feel for what it is like to travel under the power of the wind.

Thank you Paul and Elise!

Day 384 – ENGLAND: Les Miserables

Went to Les Miserables tonight. Amazing. Just amazing. It was the 9,000th performance of Les Miserables in London.

9,000th performance of Les Miserables in London, England

There was no photography allowed during the performance, so no action shots. As usual, my favourite song was Bring Him Home, sung brilliantly by John Owen-Jones in the lead role as Jean Valjean. Outstanding stuff. Standing ovation.

I went with two lovely ladies, Ailsa and Fiona; friends from university in New Zealand. After the performance we were interviewed by two TV channels.

At Les Misreables in London, England

Day 383 – ENGLAND: Some bits and bobs

Updated the following pages today:

  • The gear page including a comprehensive Wish List containing items that I require for the ongoing journey across the Atlantic Ocean and across North America. It’s never been easier to become a physical part of the 14degrees Journey!
  • The Route page has been updated with some possible routes across North America.
  • I am always updating my links page with links to other inspiring websites. Recently added were The Testicle of Manhood (Charlie is skateboarding through Europe from England to Morocco), Push for the Cure (recent mammoth long distance skateboard journey by a team in Canada), and Skate for Cancer (another recent huge long distance skate across the US). And you thought I was the only one…

Plus it was fun meeting some fellow long distance skateboarders yesterday in Hyde Park. Bam from Beats Walking Europe, who along with Adam Colton – a man who likes nothing better than to have a little bit of a shindig dance on his longboard (watch this video of him, and you will see what I mean) – and their team arrived home to London after skateboarding more than 1,000km through Europe.

A merry-go-round in the Westend, London, England

Day 382 – ENGLAND: Cabin fever

Went on the tube the other day. It took us about 20 minutes to get from Limehouse to the Westend. I’m sure if I was on a bike it would have taken just as long, but been much more refreshing than being cramped into those tiny little tubes on tracks that are the commuter trains of the London underground. Uck. Plus it costs about £4 for a return trip.

The Tube, London, England

But it was rather all exciting going to the Westend in London. My friend from Uni days, Ailsa, expertly guided me through the throngs of people to the ticket booth to buy some tickets to a musical. Yes folks, I am going to see Les Miserables on Friday night. Woohoo.

Westend musicals ticket office in the Westend, London, England

We got the cheapest and nastiest tickets they had there – 15 quid for second level terrace along the wall. But the seats are towards the front, so we should be OK.

The Westend, London, England

It was really quite overwhelming, the Westend. I wandered around in a sort of dumb-tourist-daze, resembling something like a confused small furry animal.

The sheer number of musicals and shows is amazing here. And they’re on every night. Friday night just happens to be the 9,000th performance of Les Miserables. Every night, I tell you. Perhaps I need to come back here some day and just spend a month going to shows every single day. Great way to go broke.

Westend musicals ticket office in the Westend, London, England

So thanks Ailsa for putting up with my tourist fever and desire to photograph everything in sight…

Rob and Ailsa in the London underground, London, England

Day 379 – ENGLAND: So what’s next? (still in London, England)

Well, it’s time to go home to New Zealand. Enough of this galavanting around the countryside. Time to get on back to the motherland.

This is the plan:

From England to New Zealand – without flying

  • From western France to Florida, USA by yacht.
  • Across the USA by skateboard from Florida to California following the US Adventure Cycle Association’s Southern Tier cycle route (4,500km).
  • From San Diego, California, USA, to Mexico City, Mexico, again by skateboard (2,000km).
  • From Mexico to New Zealand by yacht.

I estimate this ‘Going Home’ journey to take up to 8 months. Should be back in good old New Zealand by March ish 2008.

Now this getting home without an airplane business, it’s not that I don’t like flying. I love flying. The feeling of going through that gate into the departure lobby…it’s a great thing. But, I figure while I’m at it, if I’m going in the direction of New Zealand, I may as well see some of the landscape (or seascape) while I’m at it.


Incidentally, the furtherest anyone has skateboarded in one single journey (on record), is 5,832km. This mammoth distance was skateboarded by Dave Cornthwaite of the Boardfree intiative. He skateboarded across Australia from Perth to Brisbane over a period of five months. If all goes well, I may be able to squeeze past this record and set the bar just a little higher for the next person keen to travel by skateboard across a continent (and there are more at it than you think).

There is a chance that once I get on the road in the US, people may become more interested in this crazy Kiwi on a skateboard traveling across their country. Therefore, I am doing something that I never intended to do with my journey. I am now going to allow visitors to my site the opportunity to contribute to a good cause. I say ‘never intended to’ because I never wanted this journey to become a ‘I’m doing this for charity’ journey. To me, this gives the impression that the person doing the journey is slogging it out, suffering, hating every minute of it but enduring because he wants to sacfrifice everything for the cause. Well, that’s the image I get sometimes…

I am traveling by human-power because I love it to bits. Great fun. Fun in the not fun times too. So that’s why I’m doing it. Adventure for the sake of it. But adventure for the sake of it attracts attention. So…
I have chosen to try to raise awareness of Lowe Syndrome disease. Lowe Syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that only affects boys, and at present there is no cure. For more information on the disease, please visit the US Lowe Syndrome Association’s website at

My motivation for choosing this organisation is two-fold:

  • I am extremely privelidged to be able to travel the way I do. The fact that my body is physically sound means that I can enjoy the rigours of independent human-powered adventure travel – an activity that I enjoy and receive great fulfilment out of. However boys and men who suffer from Lowe Syndrome face often unsurmountable challenges just in the relative safety and convenience of everyday life, let alone being able to pursue their dreams and desires. I would like to see this disease be transformed from uncurable to fully curable, and this can only be achieved by extensive research and ongoing support for those individuals and families that are facing the daily challenges of living with the disease.
  • There is a man called Jack Smith in the US who has crossed the US three times on a skateboard. The first two times were purely for the challenge of it. The third had much more meaning. Jack lost his young son to Lowe Syndrome disease in 2003. His third skate across the US was to raise awareness of the rare disease.

So, now in association with Boardfree, I will continue to follow in the footsteps of many long distance skateboarders who are making journies to try to get people aware of an often forgotten about disease – Lowe Syndrome – and give them the opportunity to assist the Lowe Syndrome Association financially.

You can donate online here:


You’d think that with all this talk about skateboarding, that I am doing this journey because I really like skateboarding. If you do think this, you are wrong. It’s not even about recumbent bicycles.
I really like getting out into the wilderness. Out to places where you can be alone with your massive surroundings. That’s why I liked Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan so much. The raw connection with my surroundings is what I really love about out of the way remote places.

This journey is about experiencing such environments. If I was to travel by car, I would alienate myself from my surroundings. The same about trains, busses, and airplanes. That’s why I travel human-powered. The vast majority of human-powered vehicles are open to the surrounding environment. Bicycles, skateboards…

Why didn’t I just stay with the bike? Because another thing I like is to embrace the unthinkable. Doing things that many people choose not to do, because it appears impossible. The bike is a tried and true means of transport for solo long distance travellers. The skateboard however, is not so.

Plus, many of the other high profile long distance skateboard journeys were fully supported journeys. That is, the rider skates their board unladed, with a support vehicle of some description carrying their equipment. For me, that was not an option. The allure of showing that you can travel by skateboard unsupported was strong.

And so far, I have covered 1,500km on my board with a 15kg pack on my back, acheiving average speeds not much slower than those when I was on my bicycle.

On a skateboard or a bicycle or inline skates, or whatever your form of human-powered transport, you are more in touch with your surroundings.


This is the slightly tricky part. Give me a 5,000km stretch of road, and I’ll walk it if I have to. Give me 5,000km of open water, and I have to rely on someone else to help me across it. That will be the case for me as I try to get to New Zealand without using an airplane.

At present it is highly likely that I will be assisting with a yacht delivery across the Atlantic Ocean from France to Florida, leaving some time this month. I am registered with Reliance Yacht Management, a yacht management agency based in the UK. These positions are purely voluntary, and my role on a yacht will be a deckhand.

I will be heading down to Les Sables on the west coast of France next week to be closer to the action should a crew position come up on short notice (as they often do).
The Pacific Ocean is a bit bigger…I am not sure yet how I will be getting across that sucker, but I will be researching my options as I travel across the US.


Well, I think that this is quite enough for one blog post, so I will leave you with some London panorama photos for now. I have been going a bit crazy on the panoramas these past few days, so you can expect some more to come!

Canary Warf, London, England

Bangers and mash in London, England

Cafes in Canary Warf, London, England

Day 378 – ENGLAND: Meeitng My ‘Means’

Just a bit of a ceremonial skate to Trafalgar square today. Not particularly emotional, but here I am. In Trafalgar Square, London.

At my journey's means in Trafalgar Square, London, England

And here’s some selected footage from the last week or so of my journey through Germany and Holland to England (6 minutes):

Selected Footage Germany to England with

(click on the image above – film will play in new window) 

I was escorted to Trafalgar Square safely by Ailsa, and was met there by some of the Boardfree people, including Bev, Becki, and Boardfree founder and current long distance skateboarding world record holder Dave Cornthwaite,.

Bev asked me how I felt to be at the end of my journey. I can imagine that this may be a common question for many who have been following my blog. Let me explain…

I felt nothing in particular upon arriving at my destination. Why? Because London was always meerely a means to an end, not an end in itself. My destination of London was a means to discover a whole new world. Explore extreme and massive environments. Experience challenging situations. Every day, every hour, every moment of my journey has been an end in themselves. In theory, I could have gone home in Seoul one year ago, but my initial destination of London would have gotten me there.

Now don’t get me wrong. London is an OK city. Lots of buildings and all that.

Buckingham Palace, London, England

But give me the wide open barren steppe of Kyrgyzstan or the highlands of the Pamir Highway any day.

But as it is, the fact still remains that I am at an end of this journey. And end to which I have been supported in so many ways by so many people along the way.

I want to thank first and foremost my creator – my Father God (as defined in the Christian bible). Thank you for keeping me safe by putting people along my path who have been willing to help, thank you for allowing me to undertake this journey, and providing the means by which I was able to travel for this period of time.

Next is my thanks to my parents and understanding family, including my ‘adopted’ family in Japan. Thank you for your prayers and understanding as I spend such a long time away from you.

Thank you to all who have been regularly reading my online travel journal – both silent and vocal readers. Especially thanks to Mum, Kumiko Okaasan, Maki, Aunty Les, Aunty Lyn, Akimoto, Satoshi, Carl W, Chris J, Cousin Tim, Lee, Jean, Wim, Uncle Peter, Murdo, Mark Stosberg, Mike1727, Timmy Corkery and many others for your regular encouraging comments and questions on my blog posts and photos. They are a continuing motivation for me to continue recording my journey.

I would love to be able to list the names of all those people who have helped me by giving me a meal, accommodation, or simply broken the monotony of a long distance on the bike or board by striking up conversation with me. But not only are many of my written journals in NZ now, but my memory has been dulled by so many long days on the bike. I hope to be able to acknowledge you some time in the future.

Um. So…yeah.

Look Mum, I’m in London!

Day 377 – ENGLAND: From the outskirts of Chelmsford to London

Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 105km
Average speed / 平均速度: 12.4km/h
Time on skateboard / 走行時間: 8h 25m
Total skateboarding distance to date / 今までスケボで走った距離: 1064.88km (plus 428.5km)
Total cycling distance to date / 今まで自転車で走った距離: 11,800km
Ascent / 上り: +480m
Descent / 下り: -500m

Now this was a mammoth day. I only took one photo:

Fine gravel for skating on along the Lea Valley Walkway leading into London, England

That fairly much sums up the day. More rough paths. More attempts at telepathy with the National Cycle Network planners, trying to find the at times elusive National Cycle Route 1. If I had just gone straight from Chelmsford to London, it would only have been about 50km. I went twice that distance today, because skating on the main roads here in England is courting death. There are no shoulders, the roads are rough chipseal, and many people who drive vehicles seem to be cross-bred with tasmanian devil genes or something. Mad, I tell you, mad.

I followed Route 1 sucessfully until the western side of Harlow. But once again I lost the scent. I spent a harrowing hour on the main road from Harlow to Roydon, from Roydon to Bumble’s Green. A welcome break came near Harlow however with Dilwar, a Brit with Bengali heritage who invited me into the restaurant he was working at and fed me delicious onion bagies (deep fried curry onion balls with Indian herbs and spices) and cola. It was great meeting you, Dilwar!

Eventually certain that I would meet my demise either by road rage or car grill, I left the main road and headed towards a convenient information center in the Lea Valley Nature Park. The park staff were very helpful and I found that all I needed to do was follow the Lea Valley Walkway all the way into the center of London. Easy!

Well, easier. The asphelt did not last long. But the fine gravel footpath was much more preferrable to the main road. I pushed on, mind numbed by the headwind and gravel path, until I finally arrived in London.

I called my friend Ailsa who I was going to be staying with in London. I told her not to worry about whether I would find her place or not. I had her coordinates keyed into my GPS. I would be OK. Half an hour later I found myself in the shadiest neigbourhood on earth. There was a grown woman comatose on the footpath, paramedics wandering casually over to her, donning rubber gloves. Gangs of youths were loitering in the middle of intersections…

Man, Ailsa lives in a rough part of town, I thought.

Wrong. I don’t know what I did wrong, but I had the wrong coordinates for her place. I was 5km off. Remember, this was after 8 hours of skating. There was nothing for it but to skate back towards her place. Eventually, after eight and a half hours, I arrived at Ailsa’s place. I was knackered, but happy to see familiar faces; Ailsa another friend, Fiona, are friends from my university days.

**** INCOMING ****

Just a quick update to let people know of my pending arrival in London:

  • Where:
    Trafalgar Square, London
    In front of the National Gallery, at the top of the steps that lead down to Nelson’s column. If you don’t know where that is, you’re not alone. Do as I will do – ask a native.
  • When:
    10am on Saturday August 4th, 2007.
    Note the change from 9am to 10am.

I will be in London on the night of the 3rd, staying with some friends who live on Kildare Walk, Limehouse. If anyone wants to come for a skate or bicycle ride from there to the Square on Saturday morning, then let me know either by email or comment on this post. Anyone who knows how to get from there to Trafalgar Square would be especially welcome :-) I will get back to you with a more exact meeting location for Saturday morning in Limehouse on Friday night.

Right now I am in the Colchester Public Library. The roads so far from Harwich have been OK; I have followed the cycle route 51. I have now finally changed some money, and will be buying a map so I can find my way to London. This country is a bit of a labarynth of roads.

The plan for London is to stay a week or so to get my extended tourist visa for the US sorted out. And then I will go home to NZ. Details of how I will be doing this will come later…

Day 376 – ENGLAND: From Little Oakley to outskirts of Chelmsford

Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 82.8km
Average speed / 平均速度: 13.3km/h
Time on skateboard / 走行時間: 6h 13m
Total skateboarding distance to date / 今までスケボで走った距離: 960.27km (plus 400km)
Total cycling distance to date / 今まで自転車で走った距離: 11,800km
Ascent / 上り: +425m
Descent / 下り: -460m

The silky smooth, quiet cycle paths of The Netherlands are a distant memory now. A longing. Not only are there no separate cycle paths in England, the roads are often very rough chip seal. It is tough going. But this is made up for somewhat by the quintessential English countryside. Quiet houses nestled in neatly clipped gardens surrounded by finely trimmed hedges. Small inlets like Wivenhoe were a pleasant sight too.

Wivenhoe, England

Above: 360 degrees photo of Winvenhoe
(click the image for a big version, or here for the collosal version)

Save the lights! (Wivenhoe, England)

After a few kilometers in the morning from Little Oakley, I started following the National Cycle Network Route 1. This is a cycle route that runs the length of the UK, following quiet back country roads. When it is signposted, it is extremely well signposted. When it is not signposted, you are very much on your own. No more nice blue and red stickers on posts to reassure you that you are on the right track.

Around Wickham Bishops, I lost the scent. The nice helplful National Cycle Route stickers disappeared. I retraced the route, and double checked that I had not missed a ‘turn here’ sticker while I was screaming down a hill. Nope. I was on my own.

So I decided to ask some locals where the route went. The first house I asked at had no idea. The next house I knocked on the door…no one home. The next house had no idea either. “National Cycle Network? Nope, never heard of that, luv.”

It appears that this National Cycle Network thing is not particularly well known. After a few more door to door efforts, I gave up and headed towards Maldon, just because.

But I was happy. Here I am at last in a country where I can approach people and just start talking. I still have to speak slowly and clearly (darn New Zealand accent), but people here speak English. What a novelty.

However, after two hours, my GPS screen looked like this:

Not a pretty sight - going round in circles near Witham, England

I was well and truely going around in circles. Time to sort this out. Earlier in a town called Colchester, I had registered with the Essex County public library system. This is a free service, and you can use the internet at the libraries for free. So I headed to Witham to see if I could find on the internet where the National Cycle Route 1 goes after Wickham Bishops. As it turns out, the route does just disappear at the spot where I had originally lost it. But it begins again in Chelmsford, and leads right into the guts of London central.

Armed with this info, I headed out again towards Chemlsford, again enjoying the very Engish-ness of it all.

This is England (near Colchester, England)

After more than 80km, I was getting close to Chelmsford. I could have kept going, but it is much easier to find a spot to sleep in the countryside than in the cities, so I found a nice sheltered spot under a bush and enjoyed my second night out under the stars in England. Thank goodness there was some abnormal clear sky weather conditions…