Spike was inspired to undertake expeditions whilst growing up on the edge of Dartmoor, where he spent large amounts of time with scouts, cadets and other friends. Since then he has completed numerous expeditions in a wide variety of countries, ranging from first ascents in Tajikistan and Siberia, training young people in the Norwegian Arctic and the jungle of Borneo, and trekking in Bhutan and Afghanistan. In 2008 Spike circumnavigated the world along the line of 50°N after winning a bursary from the Royal Geographical Society and Land Rover. Spike is particularly keen on the rapidly-growing sport of stand-up paddleboarding, having recently completed the first descent of the River Ganges by this means. Spike's personal website can be viewed at www.spikereid.com.
Q: How did you fall into tour leading?
A: I used to work at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) in events management and the Society's Ondaatje Theatre was hired out by Wild Frontiers for a lecture about the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan. It was an amazing evening and inspired me to run my own expedition with some friends to this tranquil part of the much-misunderstood country. In the years following that I got my Mountain Leader qualification and then my International Mountain Leader qualification to take groups trekking up into wonderful remote areas.
Q: What do you like most about tour leading?
A: There is something very special about travelling people who see new parts of the world in different ways to you. Although it may sound like a disagreement between people I enjoy it and there's a symbiotic relationship, approaching it all with an open mind.
Q: Where is your favourite part of the world?
A: It's difficult to choose just one spot as I have seen some magical parts and many more I wish to visit. Mongolia would have to be one of my favourites. It has dramatic mountains, stunning desert and wild steppe stretching off into the distance, but what really makes this land special is the people. They are so friendly and curious. Much of the population is still living in gers, the larger Mongolian equivalent of a yurt. The nomadic Mongolians have lived in these tents for millennia and not a great deal has changed, but an increasing number of the gers have solar panels and satellite dishes attached to them. We were driving across the Mongolian Steppe in a Defender in an expedition sponsored by the Royal Geographical Society and Land Rover. We interviewed the nomadic people in Mongolia about whether climate change had been noticeable yet and, if so, how it had affected their livelihood and their family. The true wilderness of Mongolia was wonderful.
Q: What has been your biggest travel highlight?
A: Last year I led a tour to the Kingdom of Bhutan over Christmas and New Year. It was a great journey through the mountains and every day we learnt fascinating stuff about the country's history and the country today. We trekked to high monasteries and visited the most beautiful temples. It was surprisingly different to the other parts of the Himalaya I have seen. There really is no country in the world like it.
Q: What’s the craziest request you’ve ever had from a client?
A: On a journey recently a couple were nigh on obsessed with yaks. Every time we passed some hairy cow-like creatures they wanted the minibus to stop so they could get another dozen photos of the animals in the distance. I hope they didn't put all these pictures into a slideshow for the family on their return!
Q: What’s the one thing you couldn’t travel without?
A: A good hat. I take a suitable one on all journeys. When I am stand-up paddleboarding down a river I wear a leather hat that keeps the sun and rain off. If I am trekking in the Arctic then a deer stalker with a warm fluffy inside, and if I am in the desert then a lightweight cap (with the long back and sides) or just the trusty shemagh to wrap around. A buff is also handy to keep out the sand or cold. You only get one head and it is worth protecting from the elements.
Q: Which famous person would you most like to travel with?
A: Michael Palin – the gentleman that has done more to bring geography into the living room than anyone else in the English speaking world in the last four decades. He was President of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) whilst I worked there and I found him incredibly inspiring in real life too. He's also quite humorous.
Q: Have you ever made a cultural faux pas?
A: Whilst trekking through the Wakhan Corridor in North East Afghanistan we were invited to stay in a yurt by the elders of a village of friendly nomadic Kyrgyz. I used a 'Point It' dictionary to ask where the toilet was by showing them a picture of a western toilet. They didn't know what this was so I showed them the squat toilet photo. They still has no idea so I mimed it out in front of them. They had no answer for me except to laugh heartily at this crazy Englishman!