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Charlie

Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society

Charlie started travelling from an early age. A backpacker at first, he soon took to cycling and spent four years pedalling the length and breadth of Europe, Asia and Africa. If the seed had already been planted, those four years watered it beyond return and he is now a confirmed nomad. Other adventures have included walking solo across the Gobi desert, kayaking across the Kazakh steppe and trekking across Mongolia in the company of a stray dog and a semi-feral pony. Recently he skied 1,000km through Arctic Russian winter. When not in the wilds, he gives talks and writes about his adventures.


Interview

Q: How did you fall into tour leading?

A: I was looking for a way to sate my wanderlust between expeditions. Too long in the city and my mind starts to fog. Regular escapes to weird and wonderful places keeps me sane and productive so I was thrilled when WF accepted me onto their team of equally weird and wonderful individuals!

Q: What do you like most about tour leading?

A: As well as getting to return to my favourite places and learn ever more about them, I meet a wonderful variety of interesting people in the groups who have brilliant stories to tell and tend to be great at getting into the spirit of things.

Q: Where is your favourite part of the world?

A: Central Asia. I love mountains and deserts and the region has plenty of both. The odd glass of vodka doesn’t go amiss either.

Q: What was your biggest travel highlight?

A: I once paddled down a crocodile infested river in a remote corner of DRC. There were hippos and rapids and I was piloting a hollowed out tree trunk with numerous leaks. Although it was one of the most stressful months of my life, the people living along that river were some of the remotest and most interesting I’ve had the good luck to meet.

Q: What’s the craziest request you’ve ever had from a client?

A: I shaved a beard off during one tour in Kyrgyzstan and a client demanded I grow it back immediately!

Q: What’s the one thing you couldn’t travel without?

A: Reading material.

Q: Which famous person would you most like to travel with?

A: Redmond O’Hanlon. His books about bumbling expeditions through the world’s densest jungles have me simultaneously on the edge of my seat and aching with laughter.

Q: Have you ever made a cultural faux pas?

A: I once slept on a table in a rudimentary Rwandan church during a storm while cycling down Africa. Some villagers came in at 4 a.m. to pray. At that time I was skeletally skinny, had a long beard, and hair down to my shoulders. It turned out I was sleeping on the altar and, to their eyes, closely resembled Jesus. Some ran out screaming, others took a knee and prayed. It was very awkward.