Wednesday, 28 February 2007
2/F Olympic House, So Kong Po, Causeway Bay
Drinks Reception 6.30 pm; Lecture 7.30 pm
The Royal Geographical Society Hong Kong is delighted to welcome Jonny Bealby, one of the world's most extraordinary travellers. Jonny motorcycled from London to Cape Town, followed by horse the old Silk Road, trekked to the remote Afghan province of Nuristan to name just some exploits. Jonny gave the same lecture to the RGS in London to enormous success. The lecture is finely illustrated by photos while being given with wit.
Jonny needed a new direction and he set off on a motorcycle from London to Cape Town. Travelling down the rarely if ever undertaken western route through Algeria, the Congo, Angola and Namibia and returning via the east, through Ethiopia and Sudan, he had many adventures on a journey that took 10 months to complete. The outcome of this trip was his first book Running With The Moon and has since become something of cult travel classic.
Encouraged by the book's success, Jonny then decided to undertake a journey he had always wanted to make. Following in the footsteps of his two heroes from English literature, Peachy Carnehan and Daniel Dravot, from Rudyard Kipling's short story The Man Who Would Be King, he travelled into wartorn Afghanistan in search of the mythical lands of Kafiristan formerly Kafiristan in search of a pagan tribe. For A Pagan Song, the book about these travels, described by the Daily Telegraph as 'Rollicking tale", was released to considerable publicity. Jonny was transported into a pagan world of fierce tribesmen and strange customs, of fighting mountains and marching plains, of searing heat or cold. Jonny talks about the Nuristanis' reputation for thieving and banditry and how that reputation is still very well deserved. In the 38 days it took to cross this lawless province Jonny got shot at in Wama subsequently held hostage in Kantiwar. On the physically gruelling trip, Jonny crossed five 5,000 metre passes, traversed some 500 kilometres, and lived on little but bread and tea; Jonny lost two and a half stone on the journey. Jonny talks about how, like many new converts, the people of Nuristan, though duplicitous to the last, have taken to their new found faith with fundamentalist zeal.
Then Jonny set out on what is, to date, undoubtedly his most bizarre travel escapade. Accompanied by a girl he'd known for less than six hours, with little or no knowledge of local languages, customs or politics, he travelled by horse along the old Silk Road, from Kashgar, in Western China, to the Caspian Sea. Recording their adventures and misadventures for television on a DVD camera, Jonny travelled 2,500 kilometres in the saddle, crossing 'the five ex Soviet Stans' in what proved a long and gruelling trip. The book, Silk Dreams, Troubled Road, is in numerous reprints, and the film about this trip has been played on Discovery more than 20 times.
Jonny Bealby was born in Lincolnshire in 1963. Educated in UK and Canada, he developed a passion for travel and on leaving college journeyed extensively in Australasia and the Far East. Returning the UK he became a sound engineer before forming his own rock band, Tin Gods, in 1984. The group recorded four singles and one album and were featured on a number of radio stations and television shows before splitting up in 1990. To supplement his income as a musician he had a variety of jobs including being a stunt horse rider, circus roustabout, motorcycle courier and photojournalist, to name but a few. As a writer and traveller Jonny Bealby has visited more than 70 countries and, in addition to his books, has had articles featured in a variety of publications including the Daily Telegraph, The Times, Observer, Guardian, Daily Mail, Elle and Traveller. He has also lectured to the Royal Geographical Society. In 2002 he took his small soletrader business, called Wild Frontiers (named after the Northwest Frontier), and expanded taking in 2006 approximately 500 clients to 20 destinations.
Members and their guests are most welcome to attend this lecture, which is HK$50 for Members, HK$100 for Members' guests and HK$150 for others.