Royal Hong Kong Police – Escape

With more than six years of service in the Royal Hong Kong police, three of which were spent commanding an emergency unit during one of Hong Kong’s most violent periods of mayhem in which our platoon was frequently embroiled in gun battles against ruthless armed criminals, my career was now in tatters as a result of what appeared to be an “administration error” at best —- or a “fit up” at worst.

Either way, I was now at the mercy of the “posting wallahs” sitting behind their desks in police headquarters and with few cards to play was sentenced to the back end of beyond in Tsz Wan Shan, a division of Wong Tai Sin district in Kowloon East Region that consisted almost entirely of high density public housing estates and squatter camps scattered across the hillsides of Lion Rock Mountain.

Too experienced to be a sub-unit commander, but with a “blotted” record of service that prevented me getting promotion, I had very few options, and so I took up the post of “Task Force” Commander, a title that sounds far more interesting than it actually was.

Squatter villages that were once common on the hillsides Hong Kong.
Housing estates of east Kowloon

Like my first posting to Kowloon City, I was the only expatriate in the police station except for the divisional commander, Gerald Vianney Lovell Willy-Furth, a superb specimen of Colonial policing with a name to match.

Unlike Mr. Deal at Kowloon City who was a gentleman of mild manners, Vianney was a gentleman of explosive temper and an expansive vocabulary of fruity adjectives and insults. Whilst Tsz Wan San was pretty dull and gloomy, Vianney was just what I needed and I could vent my frustrations and disappointment, vicariously, through his highly amusing outbursts at the perceived dimwittedness of my colleagues. I immediately liked Willy-Furth and I think he quite enjoyed having a maverick like me under his command.

At this point in my career I am in my early thirties, had been a policeman since I was eighteen years old and had no real qualifications, other than some intangible experience helping old ladies across the road and shooting goldsmith robbers.

To increase my options I needed a university degree, and pretty soon enrolled on what would turn out to be three years of academic study, firstly through the University of Hong Kong and later through Portsmouth University in England. My plans and ambitions to improve my prospects became even more pressing when I learned my wife, Lilian was pregnant with our son, Max.

The course of study I pursued was essentially a criminology degree that was sponsored by the police, in that the course fees were subsidised and I could take time off work for lectures, study and examinations. The course attracted quite a few of my colleagues, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the lectures that opened up a whole new world of academia to me.

I relished my cold water immersion into psychology, law, political science, criminal justice, management theory, sociology and philosophy, and perhaps wasted valuable time and effort as I often went off on tangents pursuing some subjects I found fascinating.

I also found that study and writing was a way to distract myself from the drudgery of a tedious and unfulfilling job, and from the energy sapping feeling that I had been treated really rather unfairly.

One glimmer of light was that I found the job required me to go off with a few able bodied team members on what was called “rural patrols”, that was basically being paid for a living to go hiking in the hills, and so I spent large parts of my time yomping about in jungle kit exploring the surrounding villages and hillside squatter camps.

My other role was going out for Yam Cha (Dim Sum) with my Task Force sergeants, where, in addition to stuffing our faces and drinking tea, we would study the Racing Post section of the South China Morning Post whilst other members of our team trawled the underworld to capture unfortunate drug addicts and “persuade” them to tell us where they got their “gear” from.

After this intelligence was gathered it inevitably led to a raid where we would kick in the metal gated door of some depressing housing estate apartment, nick “Chan Fat” and his accomplices in the process of packing No.3 or No.4 heroin into plastic drinking straws or zip lock bags, and then drag them back to the police station where we would have an evening persuading these “pillars of society” to elaborate on the details of their supply chain, together with the paperwork and exhibit handling, where everything would be documented, logged and sealed in exhibit bags for court.

Often, as we were bashing down the doors during our raids, the panicked drug dealers inside the apartments would be trying to throw the incriminating evidence out of the window, down that lavatory, or into their orifices. During this frenzied activity the small apartment rooms would sometimes fill with a cloud of narcotics and on more than one occasion my team and I have inhaled more than enough “China White” for us to have to spend the rest of our shift inebriated, slouched at our desks in a soporific haze.

No health and safety in those days and only doctors and giggling Japanese school girls ever wore face masks.

Everyday was the same, except the useless racing tips I received from my “boys” and the handicapped nags I foolishly placed my quinella bet on.

No.3 heroin and the plastic drinking straw sections in which it was sold on the streets and housing estate shadows to people who had turned their backs on the harsh realities of life.

Ironically, while I was enforcing the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance in the shitholes of Hong Kong, I was studying the theories and published papers by eminent social scientists and criminologists at Hong Kong University and writing essays on subjects such as “An argument for the decriminalisation of drugs”.

My personal experience and academia have pretty much formed my opinion, then and today, that drugs, prostitution and gambling should all be decriminalised and the gargantuan amounts of money and resources wasted on a war that can never be won could be better spent on more rehabilitative programs for people with addiction and dependency. Most of the prisons would empty and the hideous criminal cartels across the world would evaporate overnight. Rich people seem to get on just fine with their cocaine habits, trophy wives and stock market speculation, so I suggest the ban on drugs, prostitution and gambling is directly related to the controlling elites’ desire to keep the proletariat in poverty and maintain their control over us all.

Anyway, I digress.

I felt my job was rather pointless and like a prisoners of war I was hatching a plan to escape. I had a child on the way and wasting my “not very hard earned” cash on “Always a Loser” at Happy Valley on a Wednesday and “Mo Lan Yung” at Shatin on a Saturday had to stop, as did my daily consumption of Dim Sum and Blue Girl beer that was starting to give me a passing resemblance to a very large prawn dumpling (虾球).

So, what job could I get that was near Hong Kong University and where I would have free time in the evenings to study and keep fit?

What do I enjoy doing?

Paragliding, of course.

Alas, no paragliding unit in the police, although my fellow squad mate and aviator, Gus did manage to present an episode of the public relations television program called “Police Report” whilst flying his paraglider at Dragon’s Back in Sek O, and remarking on air, ‘Who said pigs can’t fly?’ Gus’ career as a TV presenter wasn’t to last long after another quip remark on air about ‘Hiding the sausage’ when reporting on a vice raid in Wanchai!

What about motorcycling?

That was it. I could ride a police Honda CBX 750 all day.

This meant joining Traffic Department and although I understand the sound reasoning for traffic law enforcement, I had no real desire to hand out tickets. Back in my Metropolitan Police days, Traffic Department were always referred to as “Black Rats”, and not in a nice way!

It all came to a head one morning while I was gazing blankly at the Racing Post and I impulsively made a decision to apply for a vacant position with Traffic on Hong Kong Island, and to my surprise I was accepted.

RHKP Honda CBX 750 – 1990s

I managed to wave goodbye to the squatter huts of Tsz Wan San and indeed the Dim Sum trolley of the Ho Li Fuk restaurant, but had not completely escaped the gee gees, nor would, as Traffic Hong Kong Island is based in Happy Valley where the famous race course is situated and where I would often spend my Wednesday evenings dealing with traffic chaos caused by tens of thousands of eager punters.

On arrival at my new posting I was sent almost immediately up to the police driving school in Fanling where I had to pass the “basic motorcycle” course, as did all officers posted to Traffic.

The driving school in 1994 was not very far from where I trained with PTU in 1989 and I was given an initial test on a Yamaha XJ 650 motorcycle that was indeed quite basic and so the instructors pushed me straight onto the formal driving test that involved doing figure of eights on a slight incline and stopping without falling off.

Not that difficult, and I suspect the fact that I arrived at the police driving school on my Yamaha 1200 VMax gave the instructors some clue I already knew how to ride a motorcycle.

So now what?

As I was scheduled for training for the entire week the chief instructor decided I should spend the remainder of my time on the police advanced riding course that was mandatory for police units such as the Special Escort Group. This is the specially trained unit of “out riders” that ensures VIPs and visiting dignitaries get smooth and safe passage through the busy streets of Hong Kong. Most police forces around the world have such a unit to provide police escort to kings, presidents and other despot leaders who have better things to do than wait at traffic signals like we riff raff have to do.

This course involved, as far as I remember, racing at full speed up and down the Tolo Highway trying to keep up with my instructor, some bike handling skills and control tests, a traffic and driving theory test based on the UK police advanced motorcycle course, and some extreme weather riding skills that have come in handy keeping two wheels pointing down during Hong Kong’s tropical rain storms and typhoons, and indeed all my motorcycle expeditions around the world in the distant future.

As an experienced motorcyclist I found the riding relatively easy, but the theory test I remember was quite difficult. Nonetheless, I passed the course and joined the elite few, “advanced riders” in the police force. As a far from fluent Cantonese speaker I would never be able to join the “Special Escort Group” because of the language requirement, that makes sense given the nature of the job and all the radio instructions and updates that would be required coordinating operations.

Back at Happy Valley police station I became a Senior Inspector in the Enforcement & Control Unit and took command of a shift of traffic officers, most who patrolled on motorcycles, but a few who went out in vans and cars.

Traffic Department did and still has the smartest uniform in the Hong Kong police force, although as a married man, studying at night and not “beasting” myself on the trails and in the gym like I did a few years before, I had become a bit “lardy” and my riding jodhpurs and boots were a little tighter than they should have been.

Like other units we wore green uniforms in summer and dark navy blue in winter, with high visibility vests and strange detachable white sleeves. Nowadays, traffic officers have Hi-tech riding kit such as Gore-Tex jackets, high quality riding boots, Kevlar armour and top quality helmets that protect them from the elements. Also, the modern Hong Kong police force only wears navy blue uniforms, the khaki green going out with the British Empire.

My job involved basically three activities — handing out tickets, controlling traffic and responding to traffic accidents. I will concede that these are all important aspects of law enforcement in a heavily congested place like Hong Kong, but apart from riding a motorcycle all day, I didn’t think much of any of it.

Whilst occasionally I did hand out tickets and file summonses for idiotic and selfish driving I witnessed whilst out on patrol, most of the time it was my team of constables and sergeants who were issuing tickets for offences such as careless driving, speeding, jumping red lights, crossing white lines, illegal parking and whatnot. We used to set up speed trap radars at various locations and during those days we had a couple of unmarked traffic cars that carried a mobile device called VASCAR that would evidentially video record instances of reckless and careless driving, and of course speeding.

Attending traffic accidents was invariably gruesome and upsetting. Occupants of vehicles, pedestrians and especially motorcyclists got seriously injured or killed more often than the general public realised. I remember joining a search team one evening to look for a head that had parted company from its body. People often got knocked down crossing the road and there were dozens of minor injury and damage only accidents every day.

We had a traffic investigation team that would take over the accident scenes for forensic reconstruction and potentially legal action if driving offences or breaches of regulations had occurred. In those days taxi drivers and mini bus drivers were notoriously bad and the standard of driving by the general public was at best average to pretty poor. That said, I think Hong Kong driving standards have improved considerably over the years which is testament to strict enforcement and the effectiveness of road safety campaigns.

The other job we did, which I will admit was quite fun, was enforcement action against road racers who would race their modified Honda Civics and Mitsubishis against each other at various locations during the night and attract crowds of people would line the streets to watch, and bet on the races.

Whilst there was a dedicated anti road racing team, we occasionally supported their operations and would set up road blocks to intercept and arrest the boy racers, impound their cars, and clear up their trail of destruction, broken bodies and car wreckage.

I did enforcement work for a while, but it was no secret I was far from enthusiastic getting to the scene of traffic accidents. I saw awful things in the Met and I was seeing awful things in Traffic Hong Kong Island and I really didn’t like it. Shooting a goldsmith robber with an AK47, no problem. Dealing with a smashed up school kid on a zebra crossing, no thanks.

I was pretty happy when I left the front line carnage and constant confrontation of enforcement and control and was posted to be Senior Inspector of Operations, that was as cushy as any police job could be and allowed me to study for my degree in the evenings, read my study books and more besides, and ride around Hong Kong Island during the day.

The job entailed being in charge of traffic at events such as Chinese New Year, Christmas and New Year, Qing Ming festival, firework displays, the Rugby 7s, Happy Valley race day, and anything that attracted crowds and needed special arrangements to deal with abnormal traffic or congestion. Sometimes owners’ clubs of exotic cars and motorcycles would apply for a permit to drive in convoys to events, and on several occasions my team escorted “misfiring” Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Harley Davidsons at 50 kilometers per hour (the standard speed limit) along the south side of Hong Kong Island to gatherings in Repulse Bay, Stanley and Sek O.

It must have been frustrating for the proud owners to crawl along in super cars capable of speeds in excess of 300 kilometer per hour, but I suspect these events were more aimed at showing off their pride and joys. It was great to see so many incredible cars, but not surprising given the wealth of so many people in a prosperous place like Hong Kong.

One of my jobs was to draft up operational orders for such events and this basically meant all I did was Tippex over the previous year’s operational orders and change the date. 1995’s New Year’s Eve Traffic “op order” looked remarkably like 1994’s. Anyway, no one ever read these orders, the NCOs all knew what they were doing and we just did what we always did — which was basically to inconvenience everyone, cause confusion by changing the traffic light sequences at road junctions, and wave our arms about at the front of traffic jams that we invariably caused in the first place.

Another job was to liaise with Transport Department officials from the Government who would often be out and about fiddling with traffic signs and road markings in an attempt to reduce accidents, improve safety and speed up traffic flow. As I didn’t really like being in the office this gave me an excuse to roam about freely on my bike and explore Hong Kong Island. I often met up with the other E&C Inspectors on their bikes as my 8.30 am to 5.30 pm hours coincided with their morning and afternoon shifts.

One of the E&C Inspectors was my friend “Stanners” and we would meet up for tea in various parts of Hong Kong and come up with “daft” biking challenges such as attempting to ride all the way back to Happy Valley base without braking or stopping. Sometimes we would go “off-road” and ride through the country parks and along the dirt trails. After all, you never know where illegal parking may lurk!

Whilst a Honda CBX 750 sounds like a powerful motorcycle, it is actually a very heavy and rather cumbersome street bike, especially loaded as they were with panniers full of first aid equipment, battery systems, loud hailers, sirens, blue lights and radio systems. They are not Paris-Dakar bikes, and our off-road law enforcement occasionally ended up with us getting stuck in mud, riding down trail steps and skidding down scree slopes. All that said, we caused far less damage to the bikes, if at all, than our subordinates who would regularly drop or fall off their bikes across the concrete Colony.

All too often I would be behind one of my Constables on patrol and see him forget to put his feet down at traffic lights and then slowly topple over, making a complete cock up and embarrassing us all. Why they did this I will never know, although in retrospect I suggest the standard of the police motorcycle courses was perhaps not as exacting as it should have been.

My team used to destroy motorcycles on a regular basis and the bikes were constantly in the garage for repair because they were unsympathetic, I thought, to gear boxes, clutches and brakes. Anything electrical on the bikes lasted only a few days before they broke it.

As a commander, I had my own personal issue CBX 750 motorcycle and the garage team never allowed my wrecking crew subordinates to ride it. Occasionally, when my own bike was in for service, I would have to take out a spare bike and they were always completely fucked, especially the Yamaha 650s.

The other aspect of working in Traffic was that we got absolutely coated in filth and grime throughout the eight or so hours we were out on patrol. In those days buses, taxis and lorries spewed out thick diesel fumes and at the end of a shift we were covered in it, especially our necks, mouths, eyes and nostrils. It was so hot, humid and polluted riding all day that I ended up with a perpetual cough and ingrained muck on my face that was almost impossible to wash off. Heaven knows what the insides of my lungs looked like.

As an EOD Cadre member throughout most of my career I was often pulled away from my regular job and tasked with some form of bomb disposal work. I had to attend regular training and licensing courses, got called out to an assortment of jobs that I already described in previous chapters, and was a frequent bar stool occupant in the EOD Mess that was hidden on the 5th floor of Police Headquarters.

EOD cadre – LS, Jim, Jerry, me, Alick and Jerry.
News paper clipping of grenades used in robbery

EOD team and cadre on roof of PHQ
Blowing up a suspicious mooncake box at the Excelsior Hotel – one of my best wheelbarrow driving days
Working on a wheelbarrow on a range exercise with “Fruit” looking on.

I thoroughly enjoyed EOD Cadre work and think I was quite good at it too, enjoying the problem solving, technical skills, the challenges presented during exercises and the buzz of making things go “bang”. I liked the other Cadre team members and got on well with the full time guys, Bob, Bones, Jimmy, Jock and Al and all the No.2s.

Whilst at Traffic I underwent the selection process to get into the Unit full time, a series of tests devised by the then SBDO that involved psychometric assessments, theory knowledge, problem solving skills, and very realistic bomb disposal exercises.

I thought myself and another candidate from the cadre called Jim were in for a chance, but Bones went nepotistic on us and selected one of his close friends, who to my mind and the other cadre members was technically average, experience-wise below average, and psychologically a little fragile, which was born out when a few years later he tragically committed suicide. Who knows the demons within?

All this said, I was not as disappointed about not getting into the full time unit as I was about not getting selected for SDU, mainly because I could still do the EOD Cadre work and get quite heavily involved as we were increasingly used for an assortment of operations, like dealing with WWII bombs and shells that were dredged up whilst building the new airport at Chep Lap Kok, grenades and IEDs used in crime, marine ordnance disposal (getting rid of old flares and rockets used on ships), and the occasional crisis such as blowing off the tail of a China Airways Boeing 747 that had run off the runway and was preventing flights getting in and out of Hong Kong.

It is at this time during my initial posting to Traffic that my son, Max was born. He was a beautiful young fellow, and still is, but in the first few months of his life it became apparent to Lilian and I that something was not quite right with him. It was as if he was deaf or stuck in another world. This put enormous pressure on us both, especially Lilian who in addition to looking after him was working as an instructor at the Cathay Pacific flight attendant school at Kai Tak airport so she did not have to fly and be away too long.

We were both increasingly worried, anxious and stressed and did not know what to do. I had heard a little about autism, but apart from the Movie, Rain Man, it was never a thing that impacted on our lives. As we became more aware that Max was not developing as we thought he should, especially his inability or desire to talk, make eye contact or engage with us, we became increasingly desperate.

The reality was that in Hong Kong there was little help or support for autism. And so started, to my mind, Lilian’s descent into Purgatory and her unrelenting efforts and obsession to find a cure. As a father I was devastated, but one can only imagine what a mother goes through, and over the following years it consumed her life.

She was never the same again, and nor was our relationship.

Being a policeman allowed me to be distracted and absorbed in what I was doing and for my hours at work not to constantly fret and worry. However, it was always at the back of my mind and even my sleep was consumed with anxiety driven nightmares. My study was also being affected as, instead of studying Marx, Weber and Durkheim, I was trawling what existed on the “internet” in those days for information about autism and possible interventions, and it was a labyrinth of myth, pseudo science and false hope.

We were not wealthy by any means, but with both of us working, we had some financial resources to look for a cure. However, it took many years and enormous expense and heartache for me to accept there isn’t a cure for autism.

I think the stress of this, my degree program study at night and my genuine lack of interest in traffic enforcement led to me leaving Traffic and taking up a post at the Police Training School as an instructor. I was treated well at Traffic and although it wasn’t my cup of “naai cha” I was pleased I did it. It certainly improved my motorcycle handling skills and serves as a constant reminder of the potential dangers and hazards we all face each time we venture out onto a road.

On my last day in Traffic I was presented at my leaving dinner with an evidential photograph of me driving over the speed limit through my own speed radar. This was a daft thing to do, but I had forgotten the radar was there and in retrospect it is quite funny and fitting. To those who claim the police is corrupt I will counter that I paid the fixed penalty ticket even though I was on “blues and twos” en route to the scene of an accident. I suppose I could have raised this as a defence, but I could not be bothered to pursue it, and in any case, I DID speed through my own radar.

I left on a high note, recognising and appreciating the hard work that traffic police officers go through every day, but it wasn’t for me.

Not being a Chief Inspector meant I could not be a course instructor for new inspector recruits at the Police Training School, but I could apply to be a Drill & Musketry Instructor, an amazing job title, and as it turned out, a really enjoyable job that I initially thought required no more skills than being able to remember dance routines, shout loudly and stand on one leg like a flamingo in the Ngorongoro Crater. In reality, it required a whole lot more, as any teacher or instructor can attest to.

The “Student’s Instructor Course” that we had to attend and pass was perhaps one of the most professional and useful courses I have ever been on in the police and I found, to my surprise, I liked instruction and happened to be quite good at it.

I attended the course with a newly promoted Chief Inspector, called JT from Marine Police who was to be one of the course instructors and who went on to be a lifelong friend. A true gentleman and all round lovely guy. Whilst a rank higher than me, he was always good to me and appreciative of my contribution as an equal.

After the student instructor course I then had to do the foot drill instructors’ course and having been quite good at “drill” in 1987 as a probationary inspector under training, I found myself to be quite good as an instructor in 1996. I improved my marksmanship on the shooting ranges and learned some random skills such as sword drill, necessary as a parade commander, and as an instructor of senior officers who would need to carry a sword during ceremonial parades. Also, Inspectorate officers who were getting married in full uniform and their “guard of honour” need to know the pointy end from the hilt when waving their swords about among civilian guests at their wedding ceremony.

Implicit given my job title, I had to instruct “musketry” which in the 20th Century meant weapons handling, and so I spent a lot of time studying up on the firearms issued to the front line police units, the specifications, and practiced repeatedly stripping and re-assembling the weapons recruits needed to be proficient in using, namely the Smith & Wesson .38 revolver, the Colt AR 15 rifle and the Remington 870 shotgun.

Students also had to learn how to use CS smoke grenades, pepper spray, and the Federal 1.5 inch guns used in internal security situations. Of course, over time weapons have been upgraded and the modern Hong Kong police now has an assortment of both lethal and non lethal weapons at their disposal.

One of shoot ranges
Drill & Musketry Instructor – my office (1995/96)
Out in the New Territories on Leadership training with my PIs

All the other DMIs were local Chinese, although there were quite a few expatriate course instructors, physical training, self defence, and tactics instructors. I often rubbed shoulders with my fellow instructors in the Officers’ Mess, including the training school’s affable and unusually big built Commandant called Spencer Foo.

I spent a month or so assisting other DMIs with their intakes of recruits before our own intake of probationary inspectors arrived, by which time I had a good idea of what I was doing and what was expected.

Forty recruits arrived one Monday morning and lined up outside the main gate. It was my job to receive them, give them all their welcome “speech”, introduce the school, show them where they would be barracked, and then a well rehearsed procedure of haircuts, issuing kit, being measured for their “tailored” uniforms, and to their shock, and for many the first time in their life, military style “discipline”.

Nearly all the recruits were university graduates and had been through a rigourous selection procedure that tested their leadership potential, character, academic ability, English ability, and general suitability to be commanders in the Royal Hong Kong Police.

Among the intake were two former police constables and a former detective sergeant who immediately gave the impression of being the most worldly wise PI in the intake, but perhaps also the least fit. One of the recruits was ethnically Chinese, but brought up and raised in Liverpool, with a broad scouser accent. He was one of the officers who made the most improvement throughout the course – which is a euphemism for saying he was pretty useless at the beginning! Three of the intake were women and they were the first females to be trained to carry firearms in the RHKP.

Until that time, only males carried weapons. Thereafter, women began to trickle into all front line roles, provided they passed the selection courses and were physically up to the demands of the job. Of course in recent years, with political pressure for increasing diversity it is obvious to all that the benchmark has been lowered. This is not a criticism – its a self evident truth. Police Tactical Unit, Special Duties Unit, EOD and Emergency Unit are physically demanding jobs that require the ability and strength to “battle” men, who let’s be frank, make up the majority of criminals.

As I mentioned in a previous chapter, a women probationary inspector on our intake called Samantha was never able to pull the trigger of a police revolver with one finger and as such was a terrible shot. Had she been a male would never have passed out of the training school without mastering the basic marksmanship principles. This is a reality, although its fair to say very very few officers ever fire a weapon in anger during their careers and it would have been a waste of potential talent and a huge blow to Samantha if her career in the police was curtailed just for this. That said, having a sworn duty to protect life and property and carrying a weapon that can take a person’s life is a huge responsibility and I think its only fair to society and right that all police officers are trained to the highest level and meet minimum standards.

The intake was divided up into three academic courses, each run by a course instructor of Chief Inspector rank, JT being one of them. As the DMI I was responsible for the whole intake, and that included overall discipline, personal development, foot drill, weapons handing, and firearms & range courses. I was assisted by dedicated firearms instructors of sergeant rank on the outdoor and indoor shooting ranges. DMIs also assisted with leadership, internal security and tactical training and supervised the intake during all their physical training, life saving, first aid and attendance on the police adventure training course (like a sort of Duke of Edinburgh Awards cum outward bounds adventure training course).

The Royal Hong Kong Police prided itself on its traditions, discipline, smart turnout, and especially foot drill, and the standards were very high. Both the constable and inspectors’ courses were punctuated with formal parades and on completion of training a passing out parade that would be attended by Hong Kong dignitaries, senior officers and the passing out squads’ family and friends.

Nearly every morning, come rain or shine, the recruits would get up early and be on the drill square for morning parades. Poor performance, bad attitude, untidy uniforms or lapses in discipline would result in punishments, such as being “gated” (confined to school) throughout the weekends and having to perform several hours of “extra drill” on the parade square on Saturday after morning parade. In reality it was necessary remedial training for the recruits who fell behind the fast moving curriculum and milestones.

I am not ashamed to admit that I am quite proud to have been parade commander on a couple of occasions, where I had the chance to give the commands and perform the sword drill that all recruits will be very familiar with, and probably remember long after they have retired from service. Whether they liked, tolerated or absolutely loathed foot drill, mastering the drill “movements” cemented them together and helped transform them into disciplined people.

Most people will have seen war movies such a Full Metal Jacket and Platoon and have an idea about how scruffy civilians are transformed into a cohesive team of disciplined men and women. The depictions of course are for theatrical effect, but in real life military instruction is a repetitive cycle of explanation, demonstration, and imitation by the recruits until a particular activity is mastered and becomes second nature.

Like any instruction, watching the development of students is very satisfying, but also quite frustrating as within any group of forty odd recruits will be differing ability and temperament. When they get it right, one feels the same pride that a parent does from an offspring who performs well.

The training course for an Probationary Inspector is ten months, and a further two years or so before they are confirmed in the rank of Inspector, with many examinations and assessments to pass in the mean time. It is not easy and the instructing staff have a duty to not only fill the vacancies for police constables and inspectorate officers created within one of the largest forces in the world, but ensure the highest standards are maintained.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a DMI. It was not a front line police job like being in PTU or EU, but satisfying all the same. The hours were good, I did a lot of study for my degree, and was finally awarded a Bachelor of Science 2.1 honours degree. I was pretty “chuffed” with myself when I later attended my graduation ceremony with my family in the UK.

I also got myself fit and into shape again with gym work, boxing training, long runs to Repulse Bay, Stanley and in the mountains, and even a Krav Maga self defence course that I did after hours. Our intake of probationary inspectors would often get bused or flown by helicopter to Lantau Island, Sai Kung and other country parks for leadership training that would involve a lot of yomping up mountains and marching along jungle trails.

It seemed things were going well, and I was highly recommended by the training school top brass for promotion to Chief Inspector which I was very happy about. In fact, for a while I was given acting Chief Inspector rank and I was asked if I would assume the role of Chief Drill & Musketry Instructor, big boots to fill from the legendary Willy Fullerton who had the role during my own training.

Also, as one of the three course director left PTS for reasons I never learned, I was asked to assist with instructing the academic side of the training, which I did in addition to my duties as a DMI.

The criminal law and police procedure lesson plans were already designed by the school, including the preparation of visual aids and hand out notes and so all I had to do was “swot” up the day before and try and remember what I studied for my own Standard, I, II and III professional examinations. Nothing makes you understand a subject better than preparing to teach it.

On occasions I would group the three courses of my intake together to teach certain subjects if the course instructors were “busy” or said they were. One of the topics I got “asked” to teach was sexual offences, the contents of which could be quite graphic and a bit embarrassing, clearly so for JT who along with the other CI’s decided they had other things to do that week.

I remember explaining to the class full of Hong Kong Chinese students why shagging your grandmother was not considered incest by Hong Kong or British law, which of course opened the flood gates and I was bombarded with questions as to why such moral depravity was allowed by western law and a heated debate about which family members you could or couldn’t shag.

‘I don’t know’, I replied exasperatedly. ‘Maybe its because grandmothers can’t get pregnant – anyway – just learn the exceptions – they always come up in exams – now who wants to watch some porn videos?’

Forty hands all raised simultaneously.

I watched the year come and go and the tropical trees and jungle foliage around the drill square transform through the four seasons. Typhoons, scorching heat, monsoon rain, sunny and cool halcyon days, and the crisp chill of winter. The forty civilians who lined up in their suits outside the guard room had transformed into thirty four fully trained, disciplined and smart police inspectors ready to pass out in front of their proud families – and instructors.

Video of RHKP passing out parade PI 303-305 – our squads PI 306-308 supporting – (spot the author 19.55 mins)

Whilst my career looked to be on the up, life at home was full of stress and worry about Max. We had put the poor boy through an assortment of diets, therapy and schools and little Max was making no progress to join our world.

His mother and I were both waiting with bated breath to receive a full report from a specialist who would tell us what was wrong with Max and give us an idea of what lay ahead.

When the specialist’s report was given to us our worst fears were realised as Max was diagnosed as “moderate to severe” on the Autism Spectrum. He would probably never talk and would probably never be independent.

Our dreams were destroyed. This was crushing news.

The black dog was a constant visitor and I found the best way to deal with it was to go running along the mountain trails, or better still go off paragliding where my stress and worry would melt away and I could be in the moment, if just for a few hours.

One weekend, shortly after this awful news, I went off on my trusty motorcycle to one of my favourite paragliding spots at Dragon’s Back in Sek O on the south east peninsula of Hong Kong — to try and absorb what this meant whilst soaring in the skies with majestic Black Kites under the gaze of the Universe that dealt us these cards.

My purple Swing Prisma and I on the front cover of Action Asia magazine – 1995
As a member of the Hong Kong team with Scotty for 1995 World Paragliding Championships in Kyshu Japan, where I crashed and pulled out of the competition. Former Hong Kong flag

On the way home on my motorcycle I was riding up a hill in Causeway Bay when I was cut up badly by a Mercedes car that changed line into me without looking and to my annoyance was waved to stop by a police officer at a nearby road block, the Mercedes being allowed to continue. I was furious. To compound my frustration one of the police officers immediately started shouting at me to get off my bike. I had a heavy paraglider on my back, had been stopped on a hill, and was trying to select 1st gear to stop my heavy Yamaha 1200 VMax rolling backwards.

The officer continued shouting at me and with irritation I shouted back from within my helmet that they should have stopped the car that nearly knocked me off my bike.

I should have just shut up, but I was so annoyed at the unprofessional behaviour of the officers manning the road block and being shouted at. Then I heard one of the officers remark to the other that I was a troublemaking “gwailo” (鬼 = demon or ghost and 佬 = a derogatory term for guy).

Light the blue touch paper and stand well back.

They then asked for my driving licence and I stupidly said that I wanted to see their supervisor to make a complaint.

I should have let it go, but I had spent a year of hard work training up officers to be professionals only to be confronted by the very sort of rude, oafish, racist officers that let down the side and give the police a bad name.

I stood my ground for about ten minutes when eventually an Inspector from Causeway Bay appeared, conferred with his officers and then came over to me and asked for my licence. I then told him what happened and stupidly, whilst explaining why I thought the officers were rude and unprofessional, disclosed that I was a police officer and that I know the law and road block procedures well enough. Instead of calming things down, the Inspector then threatened to arrest me if I did not hand over my identity card and driving licence, and so I did, and when my details were taken I said I was going to make a complaint.

Eventually they let me go and I rode away, got back to my home, saw my family, got absorbed with all the autism hassle, forgot about the road block and lost interest to complain or take the matter any further.

On the following Monday when I arrived at work I was told by my boss, Kim, that a complaint had been filed against me and that it was decided that disciplinary action would be initiated against me.

Here we go again.

I was urged to plead guilty to “conduct unbecoming an officer” and that I would receive a warning. Oh yeah! Didn’t they do that to me before? NO WAY.

If it had been alleged I committed any traffic offence, or indeed any offence at all that contrary to the laws of Hong Kong, such as failing to hand over my driving licence, I should have been summonsed for THAT offence and had a chance to defend myself in a court of law or pay the fine. Instead I was to be subjected to to the ignominy of an internal disciplinary hearing for a “he said – they said” event whilst off duty.

I admit I could have handled the whole matter better. I was depressed with all the bad news about Max and my foul mood was compounded by the unprofessional behaviour displayed by the officers at the road block. I should also have done what I said at the time and filed a complaint against police. After all I should have known that the officers were going to “gild the lily”, exaggerate, collude and concocted a story to save their own necks, which I am ashamed to say was not unusual in the police in Hong Kong, nor in London.

As I refused to plead guilty to something that was blatantly untrue I was told I had to appoint a police officer to act as my “defence counsel” in a disciplinary hearing where the road block officers would be required to present their evidence, or should I say regurgitate their “coached” fabrication of events.

I had heard my former District Crime Squad boss, called Robin, had some experience with defending colleagues in such hearings and he agreed to act on my behalf.

Big mistake!

I should have known better. I have suffered all my life by thinking people will do the “right” thing and justice will prevail, but it often doesn’t and in those last days of Colonial policing, local Chinese were always right, and British expatriate officers were always wrong and petrified of being viewed as doing anything against the “localisation” policy that could adversely affect their careers.

In one of the worst days of my life, and in retrospect a foregone conclusion, I was found guilty of a disciplinary offence that is entirely subjective by design, and a “catch all” for when they really want to get you.

The defaulter hearing was a sham and several of the police constables gave clearly fabricated and embellished evidence that contradicted themselves and each other. One particular police constable was so embarrassed at his deceit that he could barely speak, or even look up. When the local Inspector, who clearly had a chip on his shoulder, presented his “bollocks”, he gave hearsay “bollocks” because he was not even present at what I was alleged to have done. I am a one hundred percent certain the inspector coached the officers on what to say to protect themselves from a complaint against police.

In decades to come I will forensically and strategically “destroy” deceptive and fabricated testimony as I transform into the experienced fraud investigator and professional interviewer I am today. However, back then I stood no chance.

The “evidence” was not disclosed in advance and during the hearing I was not even given a chance to cross examine the witnesses. What really upset me was that my immediate bosses, Kim and Matt acquiesced in this blatant fabrication and collusion and in my view were completely “gutless” in not standing up for me.

I have never forgiven their cowardice and spinelessness, and never will.

Back to square one. No promotion. Kicked out of training school – after all – how can an instructor in charge of discipline be convicted of a disciplinary offence?

Inevitably I am sentenced to another punishment posting that I am totally unsuited to at police headquarters, called Regional Information Communal Systems or RICS. Basically a project to computerise the case management process of regional and headquarters units.


The only good thing about this RICS project was that it was based at police headquarters in Wanchai, nine to skive office hours, I would be trained up in some project management techniques that would do me no harm in the future, and I could wear civilian clothes.

Also, it was near the EOD unit base and in the coming months I would spend more time engaged in bomb disposal work than at RICS playing solitaire and staring at the wall.

The other good thing was my immediate boss was my friend, Jerry who had recently been promoted to Chief Inspector. It seemed all my friends had been promoted and they were now all my superiors.

Jerry was at training school at the same time as me, a colleague in the EOD Cadre, a former British Army Artiliary Officer and who fought in the Falkland’s War. He made my time at RICS as tolerable as it could be. This included motivational visits to the Panda Bar, Club Sticky, Neptune, Makati and most of the other girlie bars and massage parlors in Wanchai. He even doctored my record of service by removing the defaulter record, not that I cared, but I appreciated the support and kind intentions. A proper leader.

On the other hand the Assistant Commissioner who was ultimately in charge of the Information Systems projects was not a good leader, nor indeed a very nice person at all. From the day I arrived he tried to bully and intimidate me, attempting to coerce me into admitting personal shortcomings and perceptual errors I had about my recollection of why I had been defaulted. He was particularly upset that I viewed the who fiasco was a fit up and that Information Systems as a punishment post. He reminded me of some Spanish Inquisitor trying to force me to renounce the truth with threats of very bad things, whether I did or not.

I had several sessions in his “confessional box” where I would have to listen to his blathering nonsense, glancing up at the wall clock, willing away the minutes, and gritting my teeth until I was granted permission to escape. A really strange, bizarre man. This dark lord image was complemented with a habit of wearing very strange neck cravats, 1970s suits, badly dyed jet black hair that used to dribble down his temples, and a some sort of affected Sweeny Todd Cockney accent.

Potty as a plant pot.

To this day I have no idea what I was supposed to do at RICS and whether there was any measure of performance. In theory I had to document the case processing functions of regional and headquarters’ crime units, like Organised Crime and Triad Bureau, Commercial Crime Bureau and Narcotics Bureau so that the Information Technology Department of the Civil Service could develop and implement a new computerised system for the police force. In reality I played Solitaire on my desk top computer, avoided dreary meetings, did EOD work and performed the role of a terrorist.

Terrorist? During my school days our careers development teacher never introduced the job of “terrorist” to me and its a shame because I am quite good at it. Not a real terrorist of course. My friend Steve, who was Superintendent of Counter Terrorism and a member of the Directing Staff for EOD exercises arranged for me to escape RICS from time to time and be part of the “enemy” cadre used on counter terrorist exercises.

In these exercises myself and some other EOD cadre members would play the role of terrorists and using our bomb building skills booby trap hospitals, schools, airliners and container ships that we had “hijacked” and take innocent people (other actors I hoped) as hostages. Inevitably the exercise would end in getting “shot” by SDU assaults’ teams and sometimes by visiting SAS and overseas CT teams.

All good boys own fun, but I know making these exercises as realistic as possible is extremely important in training up the various counter terrorist units to protect innocent people against the “crazies” that plague our world. You only have to watch a movie like Mumbai Hotel to see what can happen when police faff about and why a professional, rapid and effective response is needed to save innocent lives.

On one exercise we “hijacked” a huge container ship far out in the South China Sea. A real container ship that we “green roped” down onto from a helicopter and then lived for several days with the real crew members. During my time on the ship I booby trapped all the doors with bare wire loops and mercury tilt switches and hard wired an “exercise” explosive device onto the mast above the bridge. Occasionally I would take the very affable Danish Captain up onto the top of the bridge, hold a gun to his head and make daft demands on the radio.

Mad Max the TerroristWaiting on the ship and trying to stay awake before getting assaulted. Pretty sure in 1998 I had long resigned from the RHKP and was in Uetlihof in Zurich with Arthur Andersen –and I know accounting firms never issued MP5s!
Booby trapping the doors and bridge of the ship (redacted my device so you don’t try this at home)

When the assault by New Zealand SAS and Special Duties Unit did occur, it was when we were all very tired and at our lowest ebb around 3 am on the second day. The assault team approached the huge container ship in rigid raider boats that followed our propeller wake — making it less easy to spot their approach on the radar — and climbed up the side of the ship using caving ladders. Some officers swam long distances underwater using specialist scuba equipment and O2 rebreathing gear, and a third assault was attempted by air using Black Hawk helicopters.

As the helicopters approached it flooded the bridge with “night sun” to dazzle us. At this time the Danish officers and the Filipino crew were being held at gun point by us, with the directing staff looking on as “referees” of the exercise.

As the helicopter got closer I fired off the exercise explosives tied high up on the mast and in doing so the loud bang and flash might have distracted the pilot causing the helicopter rotor to clip the mast – breaking off the outer blade and making one hell of a noise. With a stick of assault team officers fully kitted up in their black garb they would float like lead weights if the helicopter ditched and so the helicopter and its “stick” abandoned the assault and limped back to dry land.

I shrugged toward the DS, with a “I didn’t expect that to happen” look on my face and shortly after the doors detonated open, some flash bangs went off and I got shot by black clad assault team officers armed with Heckler and Kock machine guns – FX training rounds fortunately – but not before taking a few out with my own MP5. A little bit of exercise cheating does go on as FX rounds, whilst hurting if you get hit, do not have quite the same “stop shooting” and “I really am dead” effect as actually being shot with 9mms of lead.

Now that has to be more fun than writing up reports in RICS and avoiding the dark lord as he wafted through the department looking for a victim.

It was whilst posted to the truly dreadful RICS project at police headquarters that the ominous date of 1 July 1997 finally arrived and being an EOD Cadre member I was tasked to perform various security duties, including standby bomb disposal duties at the new Convention Centre.

The Convention Centre, is the crustacean shaped modern building that stretches out into the Harbour in Wanchai and was the venue for the “handover” ceremony where the Union Flag, that had adorned every building during my time in Hong Kong, was lowered and the red flag with yellow stars of the People’s Republic of China was raised.

The end of Hong Kong as a British Colony.

Handover Ceremony – 1 July 1997

Convention Centre in Wanchai

Although I did not wear uniform anymore, I was required there and then to replace all my Royal Hong Kong Police buttons, military stars, epaulettes, and cap badges with the new Hong Kong Police insignia. I actually never did this, despite nagging from the “stores” Führer and these new badges were kept in the packaging they came in until I returned them a few months later, together with all my other police uniform and kit.

The depiction of an opium transaction on a 19th century Hong Kong beach between the British and Chinese on the Royal Hong Kong Police badges was replaced with a more politically correct modern “skyline” of Hong Kong on the new one. The crown was replaced with a five petalled bauhinia flower with communist stars, and of course the word “Royal”, that had been appended in by the Queen in 1967 was removed.

In coming months anything colonial was removed or repainted, so that the iconic red British letter boxes with various Royal crests of Kings and Queens were re-painted purple and green, although being cast iron these Imperial crests remain on letter boxes to this day.

RHKP badge and HKP badge

My training squadPI 308. Simon, my new boss at Arthur Andersen is front – second from left – Picture taken by me in 1987 at PTS on upper firearms range

Whilst at RICS I underwent the interview selection for a large professional services company called Arthur Andersen in Surrey Street, London and was offered a job. The partner and leader of the team was my friend, Simon who only did one tour in the Royal Hong Kong Police and left to become a forensic accountant at KPMG and then at Andersen. I suspect I wouldn’t have got if Simon hadn’t cast his deciding vote.

My hire with Arthur Andersen was as a junior manager in their fraud investigation team and I was primarily hired to work on the Volcker Commission that was set up to investigate Swiss banks for dormant accounts of Holocaust Victims.

I knew something about detective work, very little about fraud, and absolutely nothing about accounting, nor the private sector. Still, nothing ventured nothing gained.

It was a big leap and I had mixed feeling leaving the police and leaving Hong Kong that had been my home for eleven years. With the handover, many expatriates felt working for the Hong Kong government under Chinese rule was not for them and I joined an exodus of fellow police officers who decided that the time was up.

For many of us it was the beginning of what turned out to be very successful second careers in the private sector. Many of us left to become leaders in the security and investigation industry, accountants, lawyers, barristers, university lecturers, airline pilots and businessmen. A few expatriates joined to the UK police forces, with some eventually rising to the top and becoming Chief Constables. Some expatriates stayed in the police and despite not being able to reach the highest rank of Commissioner, many did reach Chief Superintendent and even Assistant Commissioner ranks. Some of the local Chinese officers also left, in fact everyone in Special Branch was given British citizenship, an early pension or compensation and left the force, after all they could hardly work for the regime they had been spying on for decades.

Little did I know that I would excel in the private sector and rise through the ranks to become a Partner within five years, and remain in forensic accounting and corporate investigations as a practice leader to this present day, with of course some exciting global adventures here and there that I describe in other chapters of this blog. It seems being a maverick with an aversion to mediocrity is an asset in the private sector.

As I look back at my time in the Royal Hong Kong Police it is mostly with fondness. Yes, the unfairness of the disciplinary system seemed intolerable at the time, but nothing focuses the mind and resolve to do better as failure, whether forced on you by bad luck, or entrapped by bad judgment. I made life long friends, learned so many things and its fair to say our experiences set us apart from the vast majority of people who have never met an angry man nor worked in such an alien and challenging environment.

Nothing compares with leading well trained motivated men and women in moments of crisis. Nothing prepares you better than pushing yourself to the limit.

We were Asia’s Finest. We experienced things few ever did and most never will.

The last of the Colonial police.

A young patrol sub-unit commander at Tsim Sha Tsui police station (late 1980s)
Receiving best platoon on behalf of my lads at Police Tactical Unit – (Chapter 2)

Riding around Sicily …….on a scooter

So anyway…

Fanny and I spent June riding through France, Switzerland, Belgium and Italy.  Fanny on her bright green Kawasaki ER6F and me on a KTM 990 SMT.


Fanny somewhere along the Simplon Pass in Switzerland


Me on the KTM in Chamonix

But before Fanny flew out from China to join me, I decided to fly out to Sicily and hire a scooter to explore the island.

I had been working really hard over the previous year and was a bit tired after the Coast to Coast yomp across northern England. Also, I had nowhere really to go having been unceremoniously kicked out onto the streets and subjected to unnecessary nonsense and drama by the evil Ayatollah of Wimborne and my 怕老婆小弟弟.

So, Sicily it is.

I booked a cheap and very basic British Airways flight from Gatwick to Catania, together with what seemed to be the entire lower middle middle class of Great Britain (as John Cleese would describe). Common people going to Spain, the lower middle middle class to Sicily, and the upper middle middle class to Cornwall. Or so it seemed.


A few “tornadoes” to tackle on the scooter in central Sicily.



I rode the east, south and central parts of Sicily and visited most of the tourists spots, like Catania, Siracusa, Etna, Modica, Taormina etc… All lovely, but my favourite by far was central Sicily, and in particular Agira that I found so beautiful and peaceful.


Breakfast!!    So, the general plan was during the two weeks in Sicily to ride (a bit only), drink copious amounts of coffee, eat gelato or raspberry sorbet, look about at stuff, amuse locals with my three Italian words, ride a bit more… and then stop for a beer or two.  A tad lonely without Fanny, but the locals were very friendly and kind.


Set a route on Google maps on my Apple telephone and then generally ignore it! I loved the back roads pootling about at 30- 40 kph in the hot sunshine


Catania… very pleasant.


The Italians absolutely love parades. It gives them a chance to dress up and prance about. It also gives old people something to do between idling about outside cafes

Honda 125 scooter

The beast… my transport for 2 weeks. Brakes didn’t work very well, oil light was on the whole time (not my engine), but apart from that .. perfect for the job.


Rode up the twisties to Mount Etna and then an unnecessary 4×4 taxi truck for final leg up to the crater. It was asleep.


Lots of charming old towns and lanes across all of Sicily


Very charming, indeed



A beer and a good book, relaxing in a street cafe enjoying perfect weather …. a proper holiday


Different book and a different drink…. same idling about though


View from my room in Agari… Mt Etna and a plume of smoke in the far distance. By far the nicest place I stayed. It had a 9.7 rating on the and trip advisor. I could see why.



Looking down from my room …. very nice. After its been hoovered or what ever they were doing for me I spent a relaxing afternoon reading, drinking and swimming.


Link to Facebook videos that I live streamed while riding here and there. Bit boring for everyone else, but a lovely reminder to me… and that’s what matters.


Morning coffee on my patio roof garden before heading off to explore again on the scooter


I don’t normally like swimming pools as I always find a discarded Band Aid plaster stuck to my forehead when I get out… but I make an exception with this one. I was the only guest, too!


I enjoyed the flora and fauna … reminded me a lot of South Africa



Only two good days with a boat. The day you buy it, and the day you sell it.


Perhaps if you owned this one, such worries about money don’t apply… just other worries instead.


A lot of churches and cathedrals in Sicily. This is just one of hundreds I stupidly photographed.  I realised when I got home and flicked through the album that they all look the same.

Links to Facebook videos I live streamed as I mooched about:


South coast of Sicily … I stayed in a lovely B&B


Central Sicily … with Mount Etna always somewhere in the background. Hot, dry, nice breeze, smelt awesome.


Lots of hill towns … all very charming and relaxed … except the rowdy scooter boys of course.


So, I get tempted by a very pretty Sicilian lady (aren’t they all) to a  selection of cheeses and salamis …with beer of course. If I remember there was donkey salami, goat cheese, Sheep cheese, the local stuff (delicious)


Another short clip from Facebook Live …. needs reducing


Another B&B … all found with and very reasonable


Which reminds me —-The Mayor of Sheffield —- what an arse. It pleases me no end that I spend so little time in England.


The bars in the early evening serve food with your drink….so much so that there is no room for dinner!! In fact, I was told that bars compete with each other to attract customers. Good stuff.. I like a bit of healthy competition and a free bun


A nice evening setting. Popular with tourists. Food pretty good. Beer excellent.


I am rather fond of mooching around piazzas


A uniform so smart it has a PhD from Oxford


East Sicily — just north of Catania


It is Italy after all


Veal … and a surprisingly good orange and onion salad … strange but tasty


sword fish … not best I’ve had… but OK



If I am giving the impression all I do is drink beer and idle about … that would be about right.



Pretty streets … we have these plants in Hong Kong… but no where near as lovely


Oooh! cakes and pastries


Nun today and none tomorrow … still keeps the old biddies off the streets


A visit to the Canadian war cemetery near Agari. Beautifully kept and a poignant reminder of the ultimate sacrifice our ancestors made for our freedom. Sicily was the location of some fierce fighting in WWII and many soldiers on both sides died.  My Great Uncle Jim (Major James Utley) was there, albeit a staff officer like Captain Darling. He later became Papal Ambassador and lived in the Vatican until he was murdered. A book there somewhere.


Always charming. I like Italy more and more. I revisit a few weeks later with Fanny on our bikes, but the north and east parts. Very lovely.


A gaggle of original Fiat 500s – “cinquecento”




Bit of an orgy going on there


This dog was not sure of me at all.


Some Germans on Harleys … and a Honda scooter!!


It seems to be a field full of paw paws


Enter a caption


Traveling light … the best way


All is perfectly fine


Right … back on the plane and landing at Gatwick at 2.30 am !!! No trains or buses and so quite an adventure to get home.

A really really good trip. I really liked Sicily. Must take Fanny there…. or even buy “that” villa near Agari one day.


Coast to Coast Hike – Lake District – Yorkshire Dales – Yorkshire Moors 2018

In May 2017 I hiked the Offa’s Dyke route from Prestatyn in north Wales to Chepstow down in the south. It was a hard old slog carrying all my kit and free camping along the way, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite the blisters and sore feet and vowed to do another walk in England one day.

So, in May 2018 I flew back to the UK and was lucky to enjoy some bright and sunny weather as I yomped the “Coast to Coast” that stretches from the west coast of the Lake District (St. Bees) to the east coast (Robin Hood’s Bay), crossing the Lakes, Yorkshire Dales and North Yorkshire Moors.





The start at St.Bees… begins with a walk around the coast and then east up into the Lake District


Traveling from London via Carlisle on a very slow train, I arrived in St Bees at about 5 pm, and had 16 miles of hiking ahead of me across farmlands in pleasant evening sunshine to get to my first camp in the gardens of the Fox and Hounds at Ennerdale Bridge… and the first of several steak and ale pies.

I was using my new Tarptent Moment DW single man tent and a Hyke and Byke Eolus 800 goose down fill sleeping bag I ordered from the USA to keep weight to a minimum. I suffered somewhat on the Offa’s Dyke and I made a concerted effort to reduce backpack weight by 10 Kgs.

Later on when absolutely howling and pretty chilly up in the North Yorkshire Moors I used a silk bag liner for extra warmth, but for now I was comfortable.

Tent –

Sleeping Bag –




Looking back at St Bees


Spring flowers still in bloom


Setting sun behind me and heading east into the glorious Lake District




My first camping site — in the garden of the Fox and Hounds Pub at Ennerdale Bridge


The next day I was up at 5.00 am, partly because of the eight hour time difference between the UK and Hong Kong, and partly because it was already light. By 6.00 am I was packed up, looking east, and heading towards Ennerdale Water.

I planned to walk 23 miles across the hills and valleys to Grasmere… and I did… including an extra 3 miles detour up and down a roller coaster ridge route, as recommended by a local hiker who told me, “the view is better”.

Possibly.  My feet thought otherwise.


Early morning at Ennerdale Water


Walking along the south side of the lake, that included a rather interesting rock scramble!


Following the lake shoreline path… but at this part I have scramble up some rocks high above the lake


Quite a steep bit of rock climbing, but not for very long before the path resumed


Back lower down walking along the lake shore


Looking back across Ennerdale Water


Resting up for a while and taking stock of the scenery


Lots of crystal clear streams and rivers


I often filtered and drank the water directly from the waterfalls


And back up again


Am I to climb up there? — according to the route map, yes


Day 2


Still climbing… lots of water … which is why its called the Lake District


Nearly there


Down the other side


A welcome sight … a rest, a wash in the river, and a pot of Yorkshire tea.


That’ll be the path then


A glimpse of another lake at the end of another valley



A very embarrassed and exhausted man lugging his bicycle up a very remote and boggy mountain.

Although it was the second day, I had been hiking for less than 24 hours and had made about 37 miles when I came across a spartan and remote youth hostel called, “Blacksail”. It was being managed and looked after by a young couple and I was able to buy a hot drink and a piece of cake. Just before leaving I double checked on directions ahead as my friend Kieran Hale (former RHKP and keen hiker) said that at this point it was easy to walk off on the wrong trail. (Thanks for all the tips and advise, Kieran).

Following his advise I took the less obvious left hand path and started a climb, not dissimilar to climbing Sunset Peak on Lantau Island where I live, possibly not as high, perhaps 600-700 meters, and much cooler, with the Hong Kong snakes and kites replaced by English sheep and buzzards.

As I was climbing I bumped into a hardy looking fellow dressed in old style hiking kit with a face that had been exposed to the Cumbrian wind and rain, rather than computer monitors and fluorescent lighting. As I approached him he was laughing and cackling and pointing up the hill to a solitary figure that was making hard work of lugging a mountain bike up the steep path.

He couldn’t help himself laughing, but also expressed concern that the “idiot” was going to kill himself.  Looking up at the struggling figure he said, ‘Keep an eye on that one… he’s got lost… he thinks this is a bridle path’.

I consulted my map, and in fairness it did say “bridle path”. That said I assumed the bridle belonged to a mule or a donkey!

The old Cumbrian continued, ‘He is in even more trouble when he gets to the top…its just bog for miles and miles…no way he can ride that bike’.

I waved goodbye to the hardly hiker and quickly caught up with the hapless cyclist dressed in finest black lycra and lugging the sort of bicycle you would buy in a supermarket like Asda, certainly not one of those expensive downhill jobs I see back home on Lantau Island in Hong Kong.

He was in a right state, huffing and puffing, and had obviously rehearsed the, ‘Don’t laugh’, when he greeted me.

I walked with him and kept him company as he struggled with his bicycle up the rocky steep trail and when we got to the top felt really sorry for him when it became clear that the plateau was an endless and very soggy “bog”.  Bog and nothing but peat bog for miles. Fair play to him, he struggled on, navigating across fast streams and occasionally going knee deep into pools of deep black peat, and struggling to haul his machine out covered in mud.

I had been told by the “local” chap earlier on that the valley route to Grasmere was very wet and that if I had time I should continue to climb and follow the high ridge route, which I did, and which at the end of 20 odd miles of hiking I could have done without. It was like a roller coast, up and down steep climbs, with Grasmere in the distance seemingly getting no nearer, and if anything, further and further away.

Anyway, I eventually reached the end of the ridge in the early evening and scrambled down the steep scree path and into Grasmere, which I instantly took a dislike to. Its a pretty enough place, but seemed far to touristy and expensive.  I decided I would push on even though it was late, but first I needed some food and hauled myself and hiking kit into a pub for beer and nosh.


Smile or a grimace… pain or joy?


You take the low road and I’ll take the high


Lamb shank and a pint of local bitter after a long day of hiking. There is nothing better than really earning your food.


Aerial shot of Grasmere

After dinner, it started to drizzle and so I hiked out of Grasmere and headed for the hills where I found myself a free camping spot next to a sheep hut half way up the mountain. As I was setting up my tent the weather deteriorated and really start to rain. Inside my tent it was doing a good job and I was inside my sleeping bag and asleep in no time.

It rained and howled all night, but by sunrise it was blue, sunny, crisp. As I was packing up my tent I could see the first of the B&B hikers with their day packs starting out along the C2C route.

I caught up with a gaggle of hikers and exchanged pleasantries. Surprisingly, there were many Americans and Australians doing the hike. It seemed the coast to coast is a lot more famous than the Offa’s Dyke hike. Why? No idea. I can safety say having now completed both that they are superb hikes of pretty much the same length and difficulty. I was, however, better equipped for the coast to coast and carrying about 10 kilograms less kit and that made a huge difference.

The majority of hikers I encountered were middle aged, completing just a few sections at a time, or were hopping from Bed & Breakfast to another, with a transport company carrying all their possessions. Like the Offa’s Dyke, some were even transported to the start of the section each day.  Most were taking it very seriously indeed and had planned ahead for many months.

I was walking a lot further than most of my fellow hikers each day, mainly because I started earlier and carried on walking into the evening, whereas most hikers finished about 4 – 5.00 pm at a designated pub or bed & breakfast.

I normally stopped walking about 9.00 pm just before it started to get dark and pitched my tent on any flat dry grass, although on a few occasions I stopped earlier if I wanted to pitch the tent in their pub beer garden or in an adjacent field. I always had a couple of pints of local bitter with my evening meal, which was usually pub food, although in the remote areas I cooked up and ate whatever I had in the rucksack, usually noodles or  fruit and nuts. I tried to avoid sweets and chocolate this time, as I was trying to cut down on bad carbs just before sleeping.

Strangely enough, the real ale was the best food to have in the evenings as it not only re-hydrated me, but is settling on the stomach after a long day of hiking and proper real ale is full of vitamins and minerals. I’m sticking with this story.

Whilst drinking and eating in the pubs with the other hikers it abundantly clear to them from my back pack and the state of me that I was a solo free camper and many would ask where I had started, where I was going, where I came from, what I did for a living, my plans, etc?

Those who know me, know these are not easy questions to answer.

A rambling answer, if I could be bothered and in the mood would include Hong Kong, South Africa, Shanghai, England, Staffordshire, Bournemouth, Royal Hong Kong Police, China, investigation, security, global adventuring, motorcycling, paragliding, etc.  I think most people I encountered thought I was making it all up.

What was clear to me, though, was that most people I met along my various hikes lead relatively boring lives. Or perhaps I lead a very interesting one.


My campsite outside Grasmere


A sunny, blue and fresh morning after a night of heavy rain and gales.


A tarn … check your “O” level geography


Pretty in pink …. I think by the Psychedelic Furs from the 80s


Coffee time by a stream.


Sandwiches — the cornerstone of a British diet …


40 grams of snowflake flavoured lard . Where are Walkers salt & vinegar crisps nowadays?  Anyway, best hidden in a cheese and pickle sandwich


A skinny decaf soya mocha macchiato? Sorry its black coffee or black coffee.. made with pond water and ewes urine. It’ll catch on eventually.

Around midday I would normally take a 20-30 minutes break in a picturesque spot with a stream, get a brew on, eat some fruit, nuts, noodles or a village post office sandwich, enjoy all the wildlife and watch the world go by.

The joy of this hike has been the total immersion in “nature”. Birds, insects, wild animals, domestic creatures, and especially butterflies. I loved them all.

The natural beauty of the English countryside is remarkable. All too often I would stumble as I gazed around me at the scenery and wildlife. I was lucky to see fox cubs peering out of their den, lapwings arching and swooping above the moorlands, grayling swimming in a crystal clear steams, and soaring buzzards.




NH4NO3? A little bit too near Bradfordstan for my liking


A policy that would go down splendidly in Mui Wo


I pushed on through to Gelridding and Patterdale and up into the hills again. I was navigating using a dedicated Coast to Coast strip map that did not have as much detail as an OS map, but was much lighter, and if you concentrated and read it correctly, more than good enough.

The Coast to Coast is not as well sign posted as the Offa’s Dyke that has the “acorn” symbol at nearly every junction and stile. As such, I made mistakes, or perhaps wasn’t paying attention, and doing so led to my biggest diversion off the C2C route, but a diversion I would gladly do again because it led me to a beautiful valley where I pitched my tent in total isolation (except for the werewolves and goblins).


I walked down the valley, realised it trended north and not east, and had obviously drifted off the path by several miles. No problems. I pitched my tent, settled in for the night, and retraced my steps the next day.


My trusty home… Tarptent DW Moment



Drying off the early morning dew in the warm sunshine.


Breakfast = porridge oats, blueberries (“idiot berries” Fanny and I call them as they are supposed to ward off dementia), brazil nuts (supposed to make you happy) and a mug of tea (really does make me happy).  Perfick


Looking back at my campsite as I retraced my steps back to where drifted off at the top of the mountain. The water in the distance to the north is Ullswater. Not where I should have be heading.


Hiking back up the valley


Back on track and the tarn with an island in the middle clear on my map. I should have been paying more attention. I start a few miles of jogging in penance.


I was thinking that the island in the middle of the tarn would have made a great camping spot. Ah well, next time.


Stunning scenery. Heading to Haweswater Reservoir and further on to Shap


Following the trail down towards Haweswater Reservoir. Again I took another wrong turn that routed me over the top of several peaks instead of around them. As I caught up yet again with hikers I had overtaken hours before I tried to pretend that is where I had wanted to go.


Walking 5 miles along the shore of Haweswater



Refreshing waterfall and pool to cool down in … or at least a 5 minute soak. I will spare you a picture of my feet!


Shale paths


Boggy woods


Bluebell woods


What’s in Thomas’ Honest Box?


Oh glory be… thankfully the honesty box of goodies and the  5 tonnes of ammonium nitrate were well away from Bradford or Oldham. Just saying!


The scenery changing as I leave the Lakes and head eastwards towards the Dales


Crossing many beautiful streams


open the gate .. close the gate

Having got myself back on track I had a long hike ahead of me across classic Lake District highlands, across valleys, rivers, streams and along the shoreline of lakes towards Shap and Kirkby Steven that marked the end of the Lake District, and the start of the second phase of the coast to coast across the Yorkshire Dales. I yet again veered off the real Coast to Coast path and climbed several peaks that I assumed were included in the hike. Only when I came across hikers I had overtaken several hours before did I realise I might be making a tough hike tougher that I should. Still, nice views from the top.

The weather was pretty much perfect for hiking. My feet, which always let me down on long distance hikes due to being the wrong shape for a human being, had settled into an almost tolerable level of discomfort, if not, pain. I got in the habit of taking off my boots at lunch, soaking them in the streams and lakes, and taping up the blisters, or where blisters were starting to form around the toes and heel.

As I approached the outskirts of some hamlets I was delighted to come across “honesty boxes” full of soft drinks, beer, sweets and cakes, that were very welcome.


3 and a half days to Shap


Abbey ruins




An orchid perhaps


I am assured by a fellow hiker, who I would wager is a teacher of some sort, that these are indeed orchids.


Lovely and green



Very green



Crossing over the M6 motorway


Nine Standards


Looking back west towards Kirkby Steven and beyond


After a long evening hike I reached the Nine Standards. Ahead lies deep peat bog that I navigate across in the late evening until I find a dry spot to pitch my tent.






The light is fading and the ground is very soggy… will push on for another hour.


An evening hike across the top of the moors … using the cairns (carefully arranged piles of stones) to navigate as path was missing


Lots of deep and soggy bogs to jump across (or land in).


A run down scout hut in the middle of nowhere. I had to laugh at some graffiti carved in the wood that said,  ‘Wainwright is a c**t’


Home for the night… quite remote for the UK


As dry as it gets up here.


A bizarre farm where I bought a can of lemonade and was served by the caste of “Lord of the Flies”. Apparently, the dozen or so children who live there with their hippy parents were featured on a UK TV show called “Country File”


A nice easy going route?


A few long stretches of tarmac road .. tough on the soles of the feet I find


Pretty waterfalls in the Dales


Picturesque valleys


Bumped into a fellow “free camping” hiker in Keld. He was doing the Pennine Way with his little four legged friends. One of the passionate walking types I met along the way.


Some yurts that you can rent and stay in near Keld … a very nice location.


Dales scenery


Lots of bridges to cross


Babbling brooks


Climbing up into the hills and a few contour paths on very steep slopes.


Steep sides and narrow paths


Don’t trip


Some arty agricultural sculpture… and my rucksack


Stopped for lunch in Reeth and managed to watch Chelsea beat Man U in the FA Cup


I camped in this field by the River Swale and this ewe and her lambs stayed with me all night… not worried by people. In fact, it seemed quite relaxed with me. Maybe it was hand reared.


Occasionally an encounter with aliens. It does have a very strange face!!!


Not quite half way.


Free camping next to the River Swale


Somethings never change … everything stops for the milk lorry


Yorkshire Dales villages and farms – very pretty


Bunting out for the Royal Wedding


Lots of pheasants and ground birds in the fields


No… I don’t have any milk


A gate along the C2C path…. better go through it… I am English after all


A Triumph Stag … not moving of course.


Into Richmond … more than halfway now



A Green Z1000 SX


A black Z1000 SX


Lovely little dog sitting outside a shop in Richmond


Odd people


Odd person


Odd ladies


Sunday lunch in a pub in Richmond – roast beef and Yorkshire pudding – it was excellent. And the beer of choice for the hike – Timothy Taylor “Landlord”


River Swale in Richmond


Leaving Richmond and heading towards Ingleby Arncliffe… 20 odd miles away


Richmond Castle


Following the river for many miles through woods and farmland


England’s wild flowers are always beautiful


Wild garlic… very aromatic.



Still following the river, and glad to be out of the direct sunshine as I have an afternoon/evening sunburn (sets in the west…everyday) on back of my legs and arms.


Rape seed fields


Crossing bridges and walking through woods


Some welcome shade from the sun…. can’t believe I said this about England


Long flat trails through farmland and meadows


OK, but is it a friendly bull, or should I start running now?


Passing through Bolton on Swale


Day 7 – on way to Ingleby


Tulips …….Stopping by Kiplin Hall for afternoon tea and a carb loading cake


Some lovely homes in Yorkshire … I particularly like the Morris Minor next to the Porche


Afternoon tea at Kiplin Hall… very welcome.


Kiplin Hall


English gardens



Danby Wiske – a stopping point for some hikers… but not for me… I am pushing on to Ingleby


But I do stop for a pint


A CAMERA pub too…. wonderful real ales. I resist temptation and just have a pint … or was it two?


A normal enough stile to cross over… but it wasn’t!!!  The rats were laughing and talking to me. They were.

The Yorkshire Dales was my favourite part of the Coast to Coast hike. Why? I guess I have traveled all around the world and seen many mountainous places (Tibet, Alps, Himalayas, Pyrenees, US Rockies, Lesotho, Table Mountain, Sunset Peak, Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Kenya etc). I have also been to and hiked through the Lake District many times and so, as beautiful as they are, there was nothing really surprising.

The Yorkshire Dales, however were superb. I guess because they are so quintessentially English.  Rolling green hills, secret blue bell woods, butterflies and birds, babbling crystal clear streams, and chocolate box “pretty” villages.  I was also blessed with glorious weather and that made all the difference. It was very enjoyable indeed.



No sigh of the Slaughtered Lamb pub high up in the Yorkshire Moors.


Crossing several railways lines


Heading back to moorland again


Long trails across moorland


Reaching Ingleby Arncliffe where I camped in the beer garden of the Blue Bell Pub


The beginning of North Yorkshire Moors section and my final 2 days of hiking. I camped in the beer garden of the Blue Bell Public House … ate good food and drank very decent beer. It was however quite cold and damp during night in my tent and it starting to rain the next day



After camping in the beer garden I manage to get a hot breakfast before climbing up into the North Yorkshire Moors


Ahhh!  Not much to see. A white out.


Miles and miles of this….!


It is now officially “chilly” and damp. Strong winds.


Wrapped up in all I have … but quite adequate if all the zips are done up. Not much of a view though


My only companion — a moor grouse


I never saw it….



A truly terrible night in the tent in the garden of the Lion Pub (highest in UK). Although I was warm in my sleeping bag and silk liner the noise of the wind and the tent flapping and thrashing about was unbearable.  Even with ear plugs in. I also developed a nagging cough that developed into a full blown chest infection that lingered for weeks afterwards until I found some antibiotics.


Its grin and bear it time as I settle in for the last long stretch across windy moors to Robin Hood’s Bay nearly 30 miles away.


Grouse trying to distract me from its nest


Down off the moors into the pretty town of Glaisdale and then climbing back up into the moors for the final section


I stopped here for a sandwich and a brew. Interesting toll sign on this Yorkshire building by the river


More moors!


33% incline for 2 miles —-Oh Joy!


The last section of my map book … nearly the end


Robin Hood’s Bay in the distance


Following the coastal path for a few miles between Whitby and RHB


And I made it. Nine Days.


The North Yorkshire Moors? What can I say?

Cold, blowy, damp and I wasn’t feeling that great as I developed a chest infection. Visibility was poor, but I did see an amusing red grouse chasing me and making funny noises… and I shall remember that more than anything.

However, there was a big dampener put on the whole hike when I reached Robin Hood’s Bay.

I should have been celebrating, but I was presented with an unnecessary logistical headache when I should have been preparing for a motorcycle ride across Europe with Fanny and getting early medical attention for an annoying chest infection.

I called Fanny in Hong Kong to let her know I had completed the hike in nine days and what my plans were for the next few days.

She said, in her nonplussed way (sic), ‘ There is no ink in the printer ….. and your brother called me and said Marie (his wife) doesn’t want you to stay at their house any more’ !!!!

Huh?  No ink in the printer?

And what am I supposed to have done now?

‘You antagonized her, and you can’t stay anymore… I don’t want to get involved…. how come there is no printer ink?’ 

I was seriously perplexed. Antagonized?

‘Apparently you said English women are ugly’, Fanny added

‘I have said English women are ugly for over 35 years… that is why I am with you, my pinko commie 宝贝’

Fanny continued, ‘ I’ll talk to you later, take care, don’t cause anymore trouble’, and then she hung up.


As I was sitting having my “celebratory” pints of Wainwright Ale in the Bay Hotel in Robin Hood’s Bay I was racking my brain to:

1) actually remember saying anything about fat ugly English women (after all its a universal truth and I have nothing more to add); and

2) work out the logistics for retrieving two motorcycles that are sitting in my brother’s garage in Wimborne with all my damp stuff.

And then it became clear.

Marie (aka the ayatollah) absolutely hates my mother. The ayatollah and our mother have never got on and been at each others throats for decades, so much so that she banned my brother, their children and their grandchildren from seeing her.

The back story is that before the hike my brother and I drove up to Staffordshire where we were brought up to see our ailing mother, and while we were there had a superb time (I thought), meeting school friends, regaling old stories, and drinking and eating in the local pubs. No mention was made of my female preferences and the next day my brother dropped me off at Stafford train station and I traveled up to the Lake District to start the hike.

I can only assume when Simon got home he was interrogated by the ayatollah and caved in, ‘ Yes Ma’am, its true, I had a wonderful time, saw my mother, had a few beers, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, don’t hit me, my brother made me do it’

So, having been evicted, with my personal possessions thrown into a damp garage in Dorset, I now had to spend many hundred pounds and several days recovering all my “stuff”. Its been a logistical pain in the arse and so I have no intention to write about it, nor describe further.

Anyway, I have learned my lesson, if you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything at all, and never trust a woman with thin lips.

I digress.

So, after a marathon relay across the south of England all the motorbikes are now safely in a garage in Bexhill on Sea, where they will be cared for by my friend Nick, who having spent a great deal of his time in Hong Kong, also shares my views on the attractiveness of English women, their tattoos, nose rings and cellulite, but is wise enough not to say anything to one!

What next then?

Well, Fanny is arriving in England in June and we will ride our motorcycles across Europe to visit my friend Mike in Amandola in Italy, and also call by Fanny’s company HQ in Basel, Switzerland (a new BBT chapter).

But in the meantime, I am off to ride a scooter across Sicily.



A few Wainwright ales in the pub by the sea and then make my way to Whitby where I had booked a B&B for the last night.


You know you are in Yorkshire when there are whippets in the pub.


Stand and Deliver – Whitby


No fish… I blame the French and the EU


Whitby Harbour


A very welcome hot shower, comfy sleep and delicious egg and bacon breakfast at my B&B in Whitby . I now had a long train journey back to Poole to retrieve the motorcycles… one by one and ride them to Bexhill before I head to Sicily.


Train ……. Middlesborough-York- Kings Cross London-Waterloo London-Poole.


Train journey home with Peter Hook from Joy Division and New Order


After a very long journey and no where to stay I book into a B&B in Poole… which I arrived at very late and then a taxi at the “approved” time to retrieve the KTM whilst the ayatollah was out having her claws trimmed. I then had to do it all again a day or so later to retrieve Fanny’s Kawasaki.



Nick and I riding again


Second trip back to Poole to collect Fanny’s Kawasaki and ride it along the A272 back to east Sussex. Just as well I like trains and riding bikes.




The Best and Worst Awards

The best and worst awards for our motorcycle expedition across Africa, Europe and Asia.

Whilst the two of us are in agreement, we realize that many may disagree and so we welcome any comments.



Tanzania just eclipses Kenya, Namibia and South Africa as our favourite country in Africa. Good infrastructure, decent roads, amazing scenery, friendly people, and abundant wildlife.  

The highlights:

  • the snow capped peaks of Kilimanjaro;
  • the glorious plains and wildlife of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater;
  • spicy and exotic Zanzibar;
  • our second favourite African city, Dar Es Salaam (Cape Town being our first);
  • a thoroughly enjoyable stay in Tanga on the east coast;
  • and our all time favourite camping spot on our whole trip, Lake Charla.

Riding towards Ngorogoro Crater

Snow peaked mountains in Tanzania

Lake Charla … elephants at the water hole

Lake Charla

Taking a ride on a Dhow in Zanzibar

Lake Charla with foothills of Kilimajaro in the background…


EUROPE – SCOTLAND (to be more precise West Scotland on a sunny day)

Many people are already aware of the amazing places to see in Turkey, Austria, Italy, Spain, France, Greece etc…and we were privileged to do the European grand tour and take in many of the sights.

Italy was absolutely fascinating, superb architecture, rich history, good food and wine,  but not the easiest place to motorcycle in due to local driving conditions. . Good, but not great.

France was our biggest surprise. It is Britain’s next door neighbour and often maligned by Americans for being, well French, and by the English for old rivalries and wars over the centuries. However, we found it to be a stunning country and a motorcycling heaven. The Alps, Provence, the Southern coast, Loire valley, the wine-lands of Burgundy, pretty Brittany, the battle fields of Normandy and the many charming villages and towns we rode through. So much to see and we were treated very well by everyone we met… even by the Gendarmes.

However, taking the best motorcycling country in Europe award is Scotland…. especially western Scotland (see UK revisited chapter).

Pretty Scottish villages on west coast. An incredibly beautiful part of the world

Pretty Scottish villages on west coast. An incredibly beautiful part of the world


Due to the Gulf Stream that course up the west of the British Isles some parts of northern Scotland that are not far from the Arctic Circle are quite mild. It is, however, safe to say that the weather isn't always as glorious and when I was there and can be decidedly wet and blowy.

Due to the Gulf Stream that course up the west of the British Isles some parts of northern Scotland that are not far from the Arctic Circle are quite mild. It is, however, safe to say that the weather isn’t always as glorious and when I was there and can be decidedly wet and blowy.


Its gets even more like Tibet ... mountains and big hairy things in the road.

Its gets even more like Tibet … mountains and big hairy things in the road.



There were no countries we did not enjoy to one degree or another.

Ethiopia,  undoubtedly rich in history and resplendent in natural beauty is a bit of a tragedy on the human side.

The country, especially the cities seems to have been left to rot and stagnate.  Ethiopians, a handsome lot as people go, appeared to be incredibly needy and nearly always had their hand out stretched begging for money. They often leaped out at us or grabbed our arms whilst shouting… ‘You, You, You…Money, Money, Money’.

It was tiresome, annoying and ever so slightly sad.

Meeting fellow bikers heading south at Ethiopian/ Sudan border

The former and now derelict train station in Addis Ababa

Cute little things .. but they always had their hand outstretched begging for money

Fanny surrounded by little friends in north west Ethiopia

Having been robbed blind by FTI Consulting,  I need to earn a crust somehow… so when in Ethiopia do as the Ethiopians do…



CHINA is a country on a continental scale and by far the most varied and diverse country we went to.

There were impressive and well planned super cities like Chengdu, Nanchang, Beijing and Shanghai, and prettier tourist towns like Lijiang, Yangshuo and Dali. We also rode through some of the most charming and idyllic countryside I have ever seen. Some rural areas have remained as they have been for centuries, despite the rapid pace of development going on around them.

But in China there are also some of the worst and most polluted places I have ever seen. Environmental plunder, architectural vandalism, motoring misery and pitiful squalour on an unprecedented scale. Quite a shock.

Some of the second and third tier Chinese cities were absolute shockers. Polluted and crowded beyond belief, bad roads and atrocious traffic jams, ridiculously bad urban planning and blighted by hideous buildings as far as the eye could see. Hong Kong and China seem to have a fatal attraction with adorning the outsides of their ugly concrete boxes with cheap toilet tiles.

Whether fascinating or depressing; ugly or stunningly beautiful; our experience riding over 13,000 kilometers through China was hugely rewarding and something we will never forget.



Sudan was our biggest surprise and we thoroughly recommend visiting.

It was a complete re-write of everything I had previously thought about its people and their culture. The kindness, politeness and gentleness of many of the people we met was incredible and we are very grateful to the hospitality extended to Fanny and I by many of the people we encountered.

That said, a cold beer in the scorching heat would be nice, as would a bacon sarnie with HP sauce, but I guess you can’t have everything. Treat it as a liver detox!

Kindness and hospitality given to Fanny and I in the middle of the Nubian desert in Sudan. Its strange that those with so little always offered us so much … and the converse!

Long sand roads .. and scorching heat in Sudan

Very friendly people

Replacing the starter relay in the middle of the Nubian desert in 50+ degrees heat.

Our kind host Mohammed and his children on banks of the River Nile in Sudan

Fanny with the guys who helped us repair her bike

Yes… there are pyramids in Sudan too






Pyramids in Sudan




We never really had any very bad experiences.

We managed to cross Africa without being eaten by wild animals, without having to pay a bribe, without being infected by deadly diseases, nor kidnapped by pirates or Jihadi nutters.

Our KTM 990 Adventure motorcycles have been superb, a joy to ride and very reliable.

The vast majority of people we encountered on the expedition have been wonderful and treated us very well…  the only exception being a few excitable types in Ethiopia who threw stones at us or lashed out as we were riding by with whips and sticks. Most of the border crossings and tourist locations attracted annoying touts, “shiftas” and fraudsters who were keen to relieve us of the few possessions we had. They were all unsuccessful.

A particular low was early on in the expedition when Fanny lost control of her motorcycle in the Namib Desert and came off at speed.

Fortunately, Fanny and her KTM motorcycle are a tough team and in no time were back together charging through the desert, albeit with a few scrapes and bruises.

In Europe our experience in Switzerland was not great, Fanny got arrested for involvement in an accident that wasn’t her fault, everything always seemed to be closed, everything was expensive, and we could hardly describe the Swiss as the friendliest people we met on our 53,800 kilometer ride around the world.

That said Switzerland is a very pretty country and we enjoyed riding through the Alps and up and down the many meandering passes.

In China/Asia I think the worst experience was just outside Chongqing City when a traffic official threw a traffic cone at Fanny while she was riding on the highway and knocked her off her bike. Anywhere else in the world this would be considered a serious criminal offence and front page news, but in China abuse of power by the authorities is common place and the “people” can’t do much about it. Fanny was injured slightly and very upset by the incident, but she managed to get back on her motorcycle and carry on.

Not being allowed to ride in certain Chinese cities and on most of the Chinese highway network is also pretty annoying and downright unnecessary in modern China on a modern motorcycle.

Apart from these incidents, and of course me getting stopped by the police at every single road block in Tibet, we had a really great adventure in China and had the chance to see places that very few people even know about, let alone visit.

USA?  Its a continent sized and a very well developed country that most non-Americans will know well enough through the ubiquitous TV shows and movies. Big, amazing wilderness, beautiful scenery,  wealthy,  but with a dark and sinister underbelly, especially in the inner cities.

To to be honest we still have a lot of riding to be done and places to see in the USA.

So far we have explored Washington, Oregon, Montana, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado in the west, and New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Ohio in the east. The south and the center remains to be explored.

From what I’ve seen of the rest of world, America sits in the middle ground. Its easy to get around, everything is super convenient, there is not a great deal of culture or history, the roads are far too straight and dull, and its not as “great” as Americans think it is. Nothing really interesting, and nothing really bad, except the food which is on the whole….a mixture of sugar and lard with a sprig of rocket.

I am afraid to so that Fanny doesn’t like America, but then she is a pinko commie!

South America?   That remains an adventure for the future.

A fussy unfocused picture of one of the officials. My hands were shaking with rage.

A fuzzy unfocused picture of one of the officials who threw a traffic cone at Fanny and knocked her off her motorcycle. My hands were shaking with rage but I resisted the urge to administer some summary justice and so we got back on our motorcycles and carried on.


These police in Hubei were very friendly and kind... in fact with a couple of exceptions that we write about in the diary, the authorities in China treated us well.

These police in Hubei were very friendly and kind… in fact with a couple of exceptions that we write about in the diary, the authorities in China treated us well.





When riding a motorcycle through Africa the last places you really want to see are the cities. The joy of riding through Africa is the beautiful countryside, meeting its people, and enjoying the amazing African flora and fauna. However, if pressed to pick an African city I would say Dar Es Salaam because it is a very interesting and lively city, friendly people, good food,  and one of the few cities in Africa I could live in outside South Africa. Traffic is quite bad though, but nothing two bikers from Shanghai can’t handle.

A dhow in Zanzibar

Having a coffee in a street in Zanzibar

Dar es Salem from the ferry


EUROPE – Istanbul

It is a difficult call to decide on the best city award for Europe. We enjoyed many. Lucca, Rome, Florence and Pompei in Italy;  Saint Lo in France; St. Sebastian in the Basque Country; Barcelona in Spain; Saltzburg and Vienna in Austria; and Old Town Rhodes in Greece. We thoroughly enjoyed them all.

However, if we are pushed to choose one then Istanbul takes the award. Its got it all… great food, wonderful art, kind friendly people, fascinating history, amazing architecture, the east meets west straits between Black Sea and Marmara Sea, and yet its very much a first world city, things work and it feels very welcoming and exciting to be there.


Fanny wandering along the streets of Taksin in Istanbul… a super city.


Enjoying the cafes of Istanbul




ASIA/China – LHASA (followed by CHENGDU) 

I am not even going to consult Fanny because she will say Shanghai. It’s like asking a panda what its favourite food is.  I thought our ride through China was absolutely fascinating. There are hundreds of cities in China with populations over a million people… many are over 20 million and therefore bigger than many countries in the world.

Each city is diverse with the richest and poorest, ugliest and prettiest and tastiest and revolting all in one place. Cities to mention are Beijing where I went to university and have a special fondness for, colourful and spicy Chengdu in Sichuan (and prettiest women!), exotic Dali in Yunnan, the amazing “Red City” of  Nanchang in Jiangxi, so called because its the home of the “red” revolution.

However, our ride through Tibet is probably one of the highlights and so therefore Lhasa, its provincial capital stands out as the best city to see in respect to scenery, architecture, history and “never seen before” general interest.

I lost my trainers and so I klomped about Lhasa in my riding boots... which got looks of admiring looks and comments from the Tibetans.

Me outside the most sacred temple in Lhasa


Fanny and I high up on the Tibet/Qinghai Plateau… the world’s highest.


Just outside Lhasa in Tibet


An interesting picture on many levels

Fanny and Si Ba (a Lama friend we made on the road) walking down the high street in Lhasa


Africa – Addis Ababa  … 

We were looking forward to Addis Ababa, a name that conjured up exotic images formed from school days for me. However, when we got there we found it to be a complete karsi. The decrepit and forlorn looking train station from a bygone era pretty much sums up Addis Ababa ‘s decline into squalour and poverty.

Bus station in Addis Ababa


Again corruption and inability to use a condom are to blame. Aggressive touts, annoying kids, unfriendly and hostile looking soldiers and policeman, and crumbling and decaying infrastructure. Its a big disappointment.

Fortunately we found refuge in a little oasis in the middle of this complete dog nest called “Wim’s Holland House”. Not the greatest backpackers in Africa, but the Dutch owner, Wim runs a decent hostel that serves more than the Ethiopian staple dish of  Tibis and sour pancakes and has a well stocked English pub-like bar that serves draft St.George’s beer.


China is basically a large continent and currently going through the biggest phase of development any country has been through…ever,  and so some of its second and third tier cities (or lower) can easily qualify for worst, ugliest, most polluted, most corrupt, most congested, unhealthiest city anywhere on the planet.

Take your pick.

However the human inhabitants have no consideration or care for the environment, and like much of China and Taiwan throw rubbish and pollutants into the rivers, streams, outside their homes and anywhere except a rubbish bin. Its extremely depressing and disturbing.

Many people in China and Taiwan throw rubbish and pollutants into the rivers, streams, or just outside their homes ….anywhere except a rubbish bin. Its extremely depressing and disturbing. Hidden industrial pollution is off the scale.

Urban off roading

As with other parts of China, the average worker busts his hump and toils away seven days a week for hours on end for very little compensation. Throughout all of China we saw the poverty and the day to day struggle by many people just to survive and make a living. Putting up with conditions no one in the west would ever put up with.

A lot of China looks like this… a dusty, muddy, grey construction site on the cheap.

Really.... just unlucky ... could happen to anyone

An articulated lorry on its side in a dusty China street… quite normal


EUROPE – LUTON Picking a worst city in Europe is a difficult one.

Athens promised so much and delivered so little. We did wander around to see the sights of Ancient Greece, but the modern day city was depressing and the economic gloom palpable.

The city of my birth, London, is a mixed bag. A disappointment on many levels, can no longer be considered “English”,  but still an iconic and interesting city if you focus on the positives such as history, art and culture.

However, if I have to pick a candidate for worst city in Europe then I am going to say Luton or Slough in the United Kingdom.

Sorry Luton and Slough…… someone has to come last …..and you made no effort not to. 



The mangey cats and dogs throughout Ethiopia are covered in them, as are most of the carpets, furniture and bedding. The lush grassland, especially after the rainy season is also home to ticks. As we were camping we had to remove quite a few of these little blood suckers that somehow found their way into various nooks and “fannys”.

“No” Best Flea Award….unsurprisingly!



Africa …South Africa (Western Cape)

Europe … Germany

China … umm?  Let’s say Hong Kong  … the standard is so incredibly poor.

Asia …  Japan



Africa ….Egypt

Europe …. Italy

The World …. everywhere in China, followed very closely by Egypt and Bangkok in Thailand which is dangerous on a bike.



Sri Lanka … driving standard is also pretty ropey … but at least its slow.

Tanzanian bus and truck drivers could take some kind of bad driving award judging by how many we saw overtaking dangerously or wrecked by the side of the road, but Egypt takes the “worst driving” award in Africa by a mile.

They are absolute shockers. Maybe  its because everyone is too busy shouting into their mobile phones all the time, or perhaps because everyone employs millimetre collision avoidance techniques, sometimes with success and sometimes without.  I saw a taxi mount a curb as the driver attempted to tackle a roundabout with one arm twisted around the wheel and the other holding a phone to his ear.

Rather than put his mobile phone down and use both arms to turn the wheel he preferred to carry on talking, veer off the road and mow down some pedestrians.

Me and my KTM at the Great Pyramids


Tahrir Square with the building we have to get our visas from at the top left hand side

Tahrir Square, in cairo with the government building we had to go to in order to extend our visas at the top left hand side. The Spring revolution was in full swing when we arrived in Cairo and so it was an interesting time.



Africa …..Namibia/Tanzania

We have a difference of opinion due to our different levels of riding experience. Fanny goes for Tanzania for the same reasons (above) as for best country and I go for Namibia, to my mind the most awesome motorcycling country… anywhere.

Challenging, technical in parts, mind blowing scenery and importantly very few people and other vehicles. Its got sand, gravel, rocks, hills, deserts, salt pans, seascape, bush, wild animals, birds and fresh air…. AND no road blocks, no speed bumps, no police and no speed cameras.  I also really liked the Nubian deserts of Sudan. Clean, beautiful and spectacular.

Fanny cruising along the gravel roads in the Namib desert


left or right?

Left or right?  Freedom to do whatever.


BEST MOTORCYCLING LOCATION _ EUROPE …. Western Scotland (in the sun) followed by France

Scotland was a big surprise. In Jubilee year, 2012 when Fanny and I arrived in the UK we planned to ride to Scotland, but the weather was absolutely atrocious. A year later during what everyone was calling “The Summer of 2013”  the weather was absolutely glorious and western Scotland gave me some of the best riding I have ever experienced. Not to take anything away from Scotland, my KTM 990 Supermoto T I was riding was one of best motorcycles I have ever ridden. I have to say it was an awesome ride and Great Britain was truly “great”.

Now we are talking. The ride now moves up to a new quantum level of beautiful. Fanny and I have ridden around the world and been privileged to see the Himalayas, Pyrenees, Alps, Guilin, Rift Valley, Qinghai Cederberg, Atlas etc... but West Scotland on a good day is second to none.

West Scotland


This is what motorcycling is all about. Peace, fresh air, beautiful scenery and in the seat of perhaps the best road bike I have ever ridden... the

This is what motorcycling is all about. Peace, fresh air, beautiful scenery and in the seat of perhaps the best road bike I have ever ridden… the


ASIA …. Tibet and Cardomom mountains in Cambodia

Who, being given the chance, is not going to vote Tibet as one of the best motorcycling destinations on the planet?  Not me.

Also, Cardomom mountains in Cambodia are very interesting and enjoyable on a bike.


Namib desert

"Yeah! - Go On... slap me on the arse and see what happens"

Yak 1000 Adventure

 USA – Valley of Gods, Utah

The best adventure motorcycling I have come across so far in the USA is probably the unearthly Valley of Gods in southern Utah. I have ridden all over the USA on various machines over the year, but there is still a lot for me to see and explore and so there may be better places, but the Valley of Gods, although quite small is a superb ride.


Valley of Gods on Honda Africa Twin (BDR Utah)



All African and Chinese inner cities (except Cape Town and Windhoek)

Riding through any of the African Capital cities was  tiresome, annoying, stressful and decidedly dangerous… in particular Cairo, Nairobi and Addis Ababa. It was no problem technically for either of us, we come from Shanghai after all where the traffic is atrocious and ride our bicycles everyday, but the appalling driving standards, poor urban planning and ever increasing traffic volume made riding less fun than it should be.

Whilst we rode on appalling roads and surfaces, such as the road from Marsabit to Moyale in north Kenya, they presented the  sort of challenges bikers relish and we confronted and overcame them with a huge sense of 成就感  and enjoyment.

Worst Motorcycling Experience in Europe … again the inner cities of Italy and England spring to mind…. but no where near as bad as China or Egypt.

In England the speed cameras ruin motorcycling and in Italy the narrow medieval roads through the towns, and aggressive and poor driving standard by Italians make riding a bit stressful, but not too bad.

In London, there are feral “non indigenous” teenagers who ride scooters, terrorize people, and steal with impunity because the police do nothing. These thugs also spray acid into people’s faces from squeezy bottles or attack people with hammers and angle grinders ….and get away with it because the ethnic majority have voted for treacherous politicians like Khan and Abbott who support these hooligans because they think the indigenous English deserve it.

The police, courts and authorities are stuck between a rock and a hard place and so they are largely impotent. They stick to arresting soft targets like 1970s DJs, non contentious traffic offences and local middle class people for Orwellian “thoughtcrimes”.

When I was a police officer in London in the 1980s it was urban chaos then, lots of race riots, inner city anomie, and quite dangerous. However, you did your job, your colleagues and bosses supported you, and you got promoted or advanced to more interesting jobs based on merit and ability. Now in politically correct and easily offended Britain its the opposite and so basically the police have given up and much of London is a “no go” ghetto.

By comparison, when we were riding in north Kenya, borders with Somalia, east Ethiopia, central and north Sinai and the western Sahara ISIS were just starting to take hold and there was a real possibility of running into a pickup truck of crazy Islamists. However, there were lots of armed police and army, local Bedouins were friendly and helpful, we were on fast powerful motorcycles, able and allowed to defend and look after ourselves, and so the odds were even.

Our advice is don’t ride into London. Ride around it, or park outside and take public transport into the tourist areas, see the changing of the guard, the museums, art galleries, theaters, cafes and shops and then get out as quick as possible.

In fact, best to avoid all English cities and head to the beautiful Cotswolds, Peak District, Devon and Cornwall, the Jurassic coast, the Fens, the Lake District, Scotland or Wales and a nice rural pub.



1. Lake Charla – Tanzania –  What a gem. perfect climate, stunning views of Mount Kilimanjaro, hundreds of elephants, Colobus monkeys, unspoiled bush, a spectacular volcanic crater lake, great bar, friendly hosts, and of course the famous roasted goat dinner.


2. Makuzi – Malawi. Peaceful paradise on the shores of Lake Malawi.


3. Mountain Rock – Kenya.  A lush enjoyable grassy campsite next to a trout filled river on the equator in the foothills of Mount Kenya.


Europe ….Scotland   no camp sites in the whole of Europe were on the same scale of the three above in Africa. Camping in Europe, regardless of whether its next to stunning scenery like Mont Blanc or near a historical town like Lucca in Italy has a whiff of concentration camp about it.  France has simple and clean municipal campsites that were great value. Italy had some decent places but they were expensive. Wales was quite good. England just doesn’t have any and the few there are are awful, with a few exceptions. Our worst experience on the whole expedition was at Crystal Palace in London where we were interrogated and abused by gestapo like camp wardens. Hobson’s choice because London is so expensive, in fact the most expensive anywhere, and so camping was the only alternative to paying over 100 pounds for a small room for a night.

Scotland however has no trespass laws and so provided you show respect for the owners property and leave the site in the condition you found it in you can free camp where you like. Its also a gloriously pretty and interesting country and so the best European camping award easily goes to Scotland, followed by France and Wales. 


North west point of Scotland at 11pm in the evening.


Camping on Skye

Camping on Skye


China – Nan Tso (Tibet). 

China is a great country to back pack across (I have done it) and as such has great youth hostels and cheap accommodation in all cities and towns.  As for camping, China is, on the whole, a safe country (apart from driving standards). However, despite its enormous size there is not a great deal of spare land that is not farmed on or developed… until you get into the remote western provinces of Xizang (Tibet), Xinjiang and Qinghai. We were very fortunate to camp in two stunning locations.

One with Lamas on the banks of a river in the Himalayas and another in the middle of Tibet at over 5000 meters next to the shores of Tibet’s most sacred lake, Nam Tso with 7,000 meter + peaks surrounding us.

USA – Needles, Utah

Campsites in the USA are basic by African and European standards. They are clean, tidy, averagely cheap, have friendly elderly attendants, but usually lack ablutions and the facilities you get in continental European campsites and most African lodges.

Apart from free camping, which I did a lot and prefer, the best organised campsite I found was at Needles in Utah, just south of Moab. In other States the campsites are pretty gruesome, far too expensive and generally geared towards caravans and RVs, and so free camping with a tent is the best option, and easy to do.


Camping with lamas in east Tibet


Camping at Nam Tso.

Camping on the shores of Nam Tso, Tibet



We never stayed at any really bad campsites. To our mind the simpler the better and there should be more like the good ones we saw in Africa.  Whilst Sudan allows free camping,  Egypt is heavily controlled by the military and police and our attempts to free camp were fruitless. We were chased off seemingly remote places in the desert and along the Red Sea by police, army and security people.

Being unable to camp in certain places, we did stay in some rather ropey (because they were cheap) hotels in Sudan and Ethiopia but you get what you pay for and we didn’t pay very much. The Kilpatra hotel in Wadi Halfa had the worst lavatory and shower outside China… a true shocker.

Of course, Europe is the land of the caravan. Rarely seen in Africa or Asia, these boxes on wheels are seen everywhere in western Europe, blocking the country lanes and oblivious or uncaring to the traffic mayhem they cause around them. To a biker they are annoying enough, but we can whizz pass them more often than not. To another car driver stuck behind one on a road in Cornwall I hate to think.

No wonder they are targets of Top Gear persecution and derision. Once they eventually get to their “beauty spot” they position themselves cheek by jowl and then the occupants immediately position themselves outside on deckchairs, guarding their plot with disapproving territorial expressions on their faces.

Actually, these caravan clubers are not a bad bunch when you get to know them and are often passionate about their caravaning lifestyles and can wax lyrical about chemical toilets and lace curtains.

I have to say caravaners, with their impressive tea making facilities and well stocked biscuit tins, who brew up on the hour every hour are always welcome next to our tent.


Africa ….  Egypt

Apart from the Chinese food we had in various places, Egypt probably just surpasses South Africa as the country with the best food in Africa. Fresh seafood, spicy curries, kebabs and falafel, roti, dates, fruit, salads, tasty bread… and good beer.

Lots of great street food in Egypt and Sudan

Back streets of Cairo

Lunch in Hurgharda

The food in Sudan is also pretty good and the Nile fish breakfast in Wadi Halfa is a special treat, especially with Bedouin coffee or tea. Again icy fruit juices are a specialty and very welcome when the temperature is scorching hot.


Europe … Turkey 

The best food we ate in Europe was in Turkey.  This was a big surprise as we don’t think either of us have been to a Turkish restaurant in our lives. Whilst in Istanbul and Mersin we were treated to some excellent local feasts by our new Turkish friends. The street food was also cheap and delicious, a bit like in Egypt.

Further along through Europe we had delicious cakes and pastries, especially in Austria, Italy and France, but the classic Italian and French fine cuisine famous throughout the World was not available to us because of the cost. I am sure its delicious, its just we couldn’t afford any.

We were fortunate to be in Italy during Easter and were treated to a delicious traditional Italian lunch with our friends Nick and Paola and her family near Rome. We also had some great home cooking with family and friends while we were in England and Wales.

I know there is good food about in Britain, but can you find it when you are hungry, or afford to eat decently in, say, London? No. Ubiquitous sandwich shops, junk food, petrol station food, and processed food is the tourists’ lot. Best you can get is a good cardiac arrest “fry up” breakfast at a roadside lay-by or fish and chips for dinner.

Even the so called ethnic food we had in the UK, like Indian or Thai was awful. So, unless you are lucky to be invited to eat at a “Master Chef” finalists’ house, have relatives and friends who are good cooks or win the lottery and have the chance to try out a Michelin starred restaurant you are going to be disappointed on the food front in the UK.

We met many tourists, especially Chinese who were on the verge of tour group mutiny in the UK because they disliked the food so much.

A wonderful lunch (into dinner) amongst the citrus groves at a superb restaurant in Mersin, Turkey. With our very kind hosts Metin and Sylvia who run the local KTMshop 。 

A wonderful lunch (into dinner) among the citrus groves at a superb restaurant in Mersin, Turkey. With our very kind hosts Metin and Sylvia who run the local KTM garage。


China – overall winner by a long way…..

Nothing beats the food in China for variety, freshness, health, flavour, texture, low cost, accessibility, colour, exoticness, pure joy and of course taste. Spicy Hunan and Sichuan, sweet and sour Shanghainese, salty and savoury Dong Bei, roasted meat from Xinjiang and seafood from Guangdong …..and it goes on with each province and each region within a province having their own specialties and traditions .

We all need food and everywhere we went in the world the people took pride in their local cuisine, but to our mind nothing beats Chinese food.

We and 1.4 billion others think so anyway..

Best Chinese Restaurant outside ChinaXiao Long (Laughing Dragon) – Livingstone, Zambia. On par with the Sichuan and Hunan food we have in China,  but I suspect only if you insist on the genuine stuff… in Mandarin ….and have a Chinese companion who does a thorough inspection of the kitchen, the ingredients and interrogates all the staff.

Worst Chinese Restaurant outside ChinaThe Panda – Mosi, Tanzania (The lovely girl, Cheng Yuan Yuan, who was left in charge of the restaurant while the owner went back to China admitted she couldn’t cook and neither could the chef). In the end one of the Chinese guests went in the kitchen and cooked a few dishes which we shared.

Would you believe it? Fanny eating again. Chengdu is famous for Xiao Chi (lit.. little eats) Snacks if you will.

Sichuan street food

I am like a dog in China. I get fed once a day, complete strangers come up and stroke the blonde hairs on my arms, in my presence I get spoken about in the third person, certain hotels wont let me in, and I have no idea what people are saying to me all the time. Woof Woof.

Yunnan food

Chatting with locals selling lianzi (lotus seeds) next to huge fields of lianhua (lotus)

Its exotic and specialties appeared on street corners and by the side of fields as we rode across the country . Here chatting with locals selling lianzi (lotus seeds) next to huge fields of lianhua (lotus)


Worst food in Africa – Malawi

The lakeside resorts run by foreignors had pretty good food, but unless you like eating a diet consisting of 99% cassava (which has the nutritional value and taste of a flip flop) you will starve in the rest of the country as indeed a lot of the people are doing.  There is no excuse for this as Malawi has fresh water,  untapped natural resources and shares nearly the same geology and agricultural potential as Tanzania which grows coffee, tea, fruit and vegetables in abundance.

The problem, as with too many places in Africa, lies with the government who are greedy, corrupt and incompetent …and the people who put up with such tyrants who keep them in the stone age.

The other crop that grows pretty freely in Malawi is marijuana , so if you like you can spend your days in Malawi stoned out of your skull in a blue haze, however when you get the munchies don’t expect to see much in the fridge.

Worst food in Europe – the UK. If you have the money, or live with an excellent cook you will eat as well as anywhere in the world.

However for any visitor to the UK the food on the street is pretty dire. The healthy option, if so inclined, is a salad with a bit of meat or fish in a plastic box. Still hungry? .. of course you are … so a tub of lard for pudding. You can tell by the unhealty disposition and obesity of most English people that there is little nutrition in many peoples diet.

In England the day starts off well with a variety of decent breakfasts and then goes downhill thereon.

Worst food in China Tibet. If we are to be picky, a diet that consists of a thousand ways to eat yak and yak’s milk might be pushing the limits… so local Tibetan food, whilst pretty OK, is at bottom of of the list as there is some amazing food to be eaten in every province across China.

All this being said the upside of increasing migration of more Han Chinese into Tibet is that good food from other provinces can be found in the main cities in Tibet. Is that a good or a bad thing?

Its a good thing when you’re hungry.

Also, I have to mention the province of Guangxi and Chinese provinces bordering Laos and Vietnam for their fondness for dog, rat, pangolin, civet cat, and other furry, feathered and scaly creatures and their insides… nope…. not my cup of nai cha, nor Fanny’s.


Africa – Namibia – Windhoek beer.




Europe – English bitter (in particular Marston’s Pedigree from Burton Upon Trent)


Marston’s Pedigree – from Burton on Trent

China – Tsingdao beer  青岛啤酒)


Tsing Dao from Qingdao, China


WORST BEER AWARDS  – of course there is no worst beer award, but perhaps Sudan should get a mention for not allowing beer at all.  In fact the punishment for any alcohol possession in Sudan is 40 lashes.



1. Masai Mara (Kenya) (in late August)

We had an awesome time in Masai Mara. Great guides, reasonable entry fees (compared to Tanzania), and when we were there the great wildebeest migration was in residence and stretched across the grassy plains as far as the eye could see. It was true Lion King country and we had a terrific motorcycle ride to get there along cattle tracks and through Masai villages.

2. South Luangwa (Zambia).

South Luangwa National Park is possibly one of the prettiest and diverse game reserves in Africa. Certainly one of my favourite. Unfortunately, while I was there the last rhino had been poached in collusion with corrupt security guards who for their evil part were paid a fraction of what the horns were eventually sold for in Asia.

Whilst the 150 kilometer road from Chipata to the national park was too technical for Fanny at that particular stage of our expedition (not now of course), I had been there on a previous motorcycle trip across Africa and on the way bumped into the Long Way Down TV show motorcycles on their way to Lusaka. They had also decided against going to Luangwa because the road was too tough for Mr. and Mrs. McGregor, although easy for Charlie Boorman and the cameraman, Claudio I expect, who turned out to be decent guys and true motorcycle enthusiasts.

With the help of my Zambian cousin I managed to ride right into the game park along a locally used two track sand road and ride right up to many of the African animals and through the stunning bush of the Valley, but trying to keep a decent distance from creatures that might like a KTM sandwich. However, I inadvertently rode into a herd elephants and was mock charged by a young male which was quite exciting. They do not like the sound or sight of motorcycles at all, especially with loud Akropovik exhausts.



Ras Mohammed, Dahab and Sharm El Sheikh, Sinai, Egypt.

I do not care for diving particularly having been put off  when I did a CT selection course when I was in the Royal Hong Kong police,  but due to putting down roots in Dahab by the beautiful Red Sea I had little to do while Fanny was windsurfing and so I have now completed the PADI open water and advanced scuba course with H2O Divers.

Dahab is 90 Kms away from Sharm El Sheikh in the Gulf of  Aqaba (Red Sea) and enjoys amazing marine life and is a very popular destination for kite surfing, wind surfing and diving. As well as scuba diving with an aqua lung, I also learnt to free dive and practised nearly everyday at the famous Blue Hole, or just off the coral reefs at Eel Garden, The Caves or Lighthouse. Amazing places. Fanny on the other hand learnt to windsurf in the lagoon with Planet Windsurf and is now a very competent sailor.

The Red Sea in Egypt, especially along the Sinai peninsular is absolutely spectacular. I have been fortunate to have traveled around most of South East Asia, but the Red Sea is to my mind better. Crystal clear warm waters, amazing tropical fish and coral reefs and pretty decent infrastructure to support it all. The Sinai desert mountains create an awesome backdrop to the coastal towns of Nuweiba, Taba and especially Dahab, and the desert itself is quite possibly the prettiest in the world, especially at sunset and sunrise.  That said, the whole tourism thing could be done so so much better, but then the Egyptian tourist industry is reeling from the Arab Spring revolution, the world economic downturn and the negative effects of blowing up tourists with fire-bombs.


Any open water in East or South China. Polluted and disgusting.


Africa – Ethiopia and Lesotho

Whilst we thought Ethiopia was spoiled a bit by some of its annoying stone throwing feral inhabitants and decaying cities, it does have spectacular natural beauty with mountains, rivers, pastures, lakes and valleys that looks a bit like those in Switzerland, Scotland or Austria.  The roads are also for the large part extremely good, although as I have said often crowded with people and animals.

Lesotho, which is bordered completely by South Africa, is also a very mountainous country and is an excellent place to visit, albeit a bit chilly to ride through in winter.

Ethiopia’s proximity to some very dodgy African countries, short visa restrictions and some very wet weather while we were there prevented us from exploring the amazing Danakil depression and Afar region in the east of the country which are said to be spectacular.

Not many regrets on the expedition, but not venturing to this amazing part of the world that features in the January 2012 edition of National Geographic magazine.

We did go to Lalibela to see the rock hewn churches, and they were fairly interesting. But unless you are an archaeologist or Christian pilgrim you’d be better off visiting Salisbury Cathedral, and indeed any Norman church in England as they are older, far more impressive and have less fleas. The ride there was fun though and took us  “off road” for a few hundred kilometers through valleys and across rivers and streams.

Europe – you are probably going the expect me to say The Alps, Pyrenees or the Dolomites, maybe the Brecon Beacons or Snowdonia in Wales and indeed they are spectacular, but I am going to have to pick the mountains and valleys I enjoyed riding through the most and so I will say The Highlands of Scotland.

West coast of Scotland

West coast of Scotland


China –  is a very mountainous part of the world and along our 13,000 kilometer ride through the middle kingdom we navigated over, around and often through many mountain ranges. Chinese history is steeped in legend about mountains and have been the subject of pilgrimages by emperors and philosophers throughout the ages.  We were lucky to see some of the wuyue 五岳 – sacred five and the Buddhist and Taoist fours. But for me and Fanny seeing (and riding through) the greatest mountain range on the planet with the highest peaks, the Himalayas was one of the highlights of the expedition.

After all the awful roads we get to cruise on the awesome S201 through Guangxi 广西。

Guangxi 广西。

These are the mountains that turn the Yellow River ... yellow

These are the mountains that turn the Yellow River … yellow

Tibet and the Himalayas from space

Tibet and the Himalayas from space

The Himalayas... what can you say?

The Himalayas… what can you say?



Africa – South Africa. Quite simply modern, efficient, quick and fair.

Europeall easy

Chinano border crossings.. although riding through the road blocks in Tibet was “interesting”.


1st Egypt and 2nd Sudan.

The opposite of modern, efficient, quick, or fair. The further north in Africa we went the worse the border crossings became.


Africa – Botswana

Europe – Austria

Asia – Singapore (its not going to be China is it?)


Africa – Egypt

Europe – Italy

Asia – China

Most countries we went through in Africa could very fairly be described as corrupt. Some more than others. Unfortunately, there are countries we simply couldn’t risk traveling through because they are so corrupt and dangerous, such as the DRC, Chad, Nigeria etc.. Even the famous Dakar Rally no longer races through the Sahara to Dakar and has moved to Argentina and Chile in South America.

An anecdote from our first day in Egypt:

Having spent considerable time and parted with a huge amount of cash at customs and immigration at the Egyptian border in Aswan, we were stopped 50 meters away at a road block, the first of hundreds, by a policeman with an AK47 variant of assault rifle who looked us up and down and asked, ‘Where you come from?’

Me (clearly thinking this is stupid question at the Egypt/Sudan border) ‘ Sudan’

Policeman ‘What in bag?’

Me ‘ Our things’

Policeman ‘ Open up’

Me ‘OK’…. ‘It’ll take a bit of time… hang on a bit’

As I was getting off my bike to open the panniers the policeman said ‘ Ah.. no need, haha…  anything nice for me?’

Me ‘ I don’t pay bribes’ (eye to eye), and continued,  ‘Actually I used to be a policeman and think policemen like you are an insult to the cloth, you make the job of honest, conscientious policemen more difficult and more dangerous’ rant rant…

Policeman (grinning like an imbecile and waving me on) ‘ haha .. you can go’

Policeman to Fanny ‘Where you come from?’

Fanny ‘China’

Policeman to Fanny ‘ You got present for me?’

I turned around and shouted ‘ HEY! – I TOLD YOU’

Policeman ‘Haha.. OK you go’   and so we went.

On each occasion the authorities even suggested a bribe I stood my ground or played my “I used to be a policeman” trump card and they all gave up.

Some of Fanny’s friends, a Chinese expedition starting from South Africa and riding Jin Chiang motorcycle and side-cars, gave up in Tanzania after running out of money, spirit and heart after paying bribe after bribe and being messed about at every single border crossing.

I guess the Africans thought that Chinese are accustomed to paying bribes. Maybe they are, and maybe they are also as fed up as everyone else.


NOISIEST COUNTRY AWARDS  – Sudan followed by China and Egypt.

Sudan is a strictly Islamic country and so requires its Muslim population to pray five times a day among other noisy rituals. The density of mosques and minarets in Sudan is very high and the call to prayers starts at 4-5 am which is rather early and without doubt a very loud wake -up alarm call where ever you are.

I vaguely remember bell ringing on Sunday mornings from the church in the village, Abbots Bromley, I grew up in England, and even that annoyed me after a few peels.

As a Roaming Catholic of the lapsed kind I am a firm believer that anyone can believe in what they like provided it causes no harm to others, but object to people inflicting their superstitions, religion and beliefs on other people.

My helpful suggestion that calls to prayer be made using mobile phones on vibrate mode was not met enthusiastically by anyone I met, nor was the suggestion that  “All Things Bright and Beautiful” might be more cheerful.


There are 1.4 billion Chinese, the streets are crowded, and they absolutely love noise and any excuse to make some is welcomed and encouraged.

Megaphones, public announcements, promotions, advertisements, car horns, traffic, construction noise, warning signals, conversations, music, talking in restaurants etc etc… DO IT LOUDLY!. T

There are four tones in Mandarin and to make sure the other person understands clearly its best to SHOUT. In Cantonese there are nine tones and so the Hong Kongers SHOUT EVEN LOUDER ……..AAAH MAAAA. 噪音太大。!!!!



To the motorcyclists who like a bit of technical off road riding, stunning scenery, quiet roads, good camping sites, African animals and birds, decent petrol and getting close to unspoiled nature then Namibia is the country to go and disturb the peace with your Akropovik or Leo Vince exhausts!


A long way from anywhere…. The Skeleton Coast, Namibia

Pictures at

Offa’s Dyke Hike – May 2017


Hiking along the entire Offas Dyke in one go was unfinished business for me. I attempted it from South to North a few years back and was defeated.

As they say in certain circles, proper planning prevents piss poor performance, and I had not planned properly. Poor mental preparation, poor research, and very poor kit, especially my ill-fitting boots and tortuous rucksack. All of which meant I came to an agonising halt no more than half way along.

Offa’s Dyke Path is a 177 mile (285 Km) long walking trail. It is named after, and often follows, the spectacular Dyke King Offa ordered to be constructed in the 8th century, probably to divide his Kingdom of Mercia from rival kingdoms in what is now Wales

The Trail, which was opened in the summer of 1971, links Sedbury Cliffs near Chepstow on the banks of the Severn estuary with the coastal town of Prestatyn on the shores of the Irish sea. It passes through no less than eight different counties and crosses the border between England and Wales over 20 times. The Trail explores the tranquil Marches (as the border region is known) and passes through the Brecon Beacons National Park on the spectacular Hatterrall Ridge. In addition it links no less than three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty – the Wye Valley, the Shropshire Hills and the Clwydian Range / Dee Valley.

In May 2017 I returned, but this time started from the north of Wales at Prestatyn.

I had arranged to meet Kevin and Simon, with whom I worked in Arthur Andersen’s Fraud Services Unit in London back in the late 1990s, all of us being former UK policemen, and very keen on hiking and the great outdoors.

Simon was also in my intake at the training school in Wong Chuk Hang when we joined the Royal Hong Kong Police together in February 1987. Later he was my boss at Arthur Andersen where I first met Kevin, and with whom I worked very closely on numerous fraud investigations and assignments.

Simon and Kevin had only planned to walk a section or two, do 7-10 miles each day, carry light day packs and stay in comfortable B&Bs along the way. They planned to leap frog their cars with their luggage between these B&Bs.

I, on the other hand, was determined to yomp the whole 177 + miles, carry 25 kilograms of camping gear and supplies in my backpack, free camp along the way, and attempt between 20 and 30 miles each day.

Since they were all Labour supporting football hooligan grim northerners I was not going to let them forget this southern poof called Rupert was going to do it the “proper” way.  Of course, with all this banter that meant the pressure was on me to actually finish it this time.


Start of hike with the lads … and 7 kgs heavier than when I finished 10 days later


Prestatyn and Kevin…. day 1 

north of llangollen near worlds end

A memorable section of the Offa’s Dyke


Offa’s Dyke – fascinating history and outstanding natural beauty



If you are in a group its much more sociable… but the pace can be frustrating slow. Great to see the guys and chat.


strange creatures….  a pink human, an alpaca and a huge turkey


The Offa’s Dyke Path 




As I live in Hong Kong my journey to the start of the hike was a lot longer than theirs, although you wouldn’t have known it given all their northern whining and gnashing of gums about their arduous car rides and the traffic conditions along the roads between North Wales and Derbyshire.

For me, my trip started with a bus ride from Mui Wo to the airport on Lantau Island, an Emirates flight to Heathrow via Dubai, and an underground train ride with the rush hour commuters to Covent Garden tube station in central London, where I knew I could buy a few more camping supplies that I didn’t have or couldn’t carry by air, such as a cooking gas canister, a fleece (I left mine in South Africa), and a waterproof cover for my new Osprey Atmos 65 rucksack that Fanny bought me off Amazon. I had already bought a new pair of North Face Hedgehog hiking boots that proved to be excellent.

After getting the things I needed, I then hiked across London in the rain to Euston train station, where I caught a surprisingly comfortable and remarkably cheap railway ride via Chester to Prestatyn.

As my hiking companions were still “en route” I immediately found a pub in town and started my Welsh beer appreciation survey and some “carb loading”.

Total journey about 40 hours door to door.

The northern boys had booked into a hotel next to the sea, no doubt because Pontins in Rhyll was full, and it was the only the place in town that would allow them to keep their coal in the bath, I am guessing!

Knowing that I would need a shower and a good rest after a long journey I had booked an AirBnB room in a private house located right at the start the hike at 25 quid a night. A very nice room, comfy bed, including a superb hiking breakfast of tea, toast, porridge and honey at 6 am, prepared by my very kind host, Anne.

From then on I was free camping.

As I hadn’t seen Simon and Kevin, nor Kevin’s wife, Denise for many years we had some catching up to do in the beer garden at their hotel. We were joined by a buddy of Simon’s from his Greater Manchester Police days called Andrew who was also a very keen hiker. Andrew also had the only decent OS maps in the group and by the looks of it the best hiking kit. By comparison, Kevin looked like he was popping down to the corner shop in his train spotter’s anorak and was carrying a well used supermarket plastic bag with his sandwiches inside.

I had decided against carrying any maps as the whole Offa’s Dyke requires six large OS maps in total which is far too much paper to lug, especially as the hike is pretty well sign posted. That said I did get lost on a few occasions, with several off piste excursions that added many miles to my already stressed feet. A map wouldn’t have helped anyway because I always think I know better, and rarely refer to one until well after I have got myself well and truly lost.

As is often the case nowadays, given that I have to work for food like everyone else, our evening was disturbed by a long call from one of my clients’ lawyers asking me to “do stuff” and amend documentation for a project I had started in China and France.

No worries, I had prepared myself with an EE network 4G Sim card that I bought when I arrived at Heathrow (EE being the best coverage for the Offa’s Dyke, so I read somewhere) and tethered my iPhone to various devices that I lug about so I can do my work anywhere in the world. Isn’t technology great? Although perhaps not the greatest idea to draft a legal contract after three pints of local brew, but there you are.

The next day I was up before 4.00 a.m., my body clock still tuned to Hong Kong time. I had to wait 6 hours before the cast of the “Last of the Summer Wine” had got their shit together before we set off, and even after that, and no more than 500 yards into the hike Simon had to run back to his car because he forgot something.

Simon has a PhD in “faffing about and forgetting stuff” and I cannot think of a day we have spent together, from leadership training in the wilds of Hong Kong, to investigating Holocaust Victims dormant accounts in Zurich when he has not had to double back on his tracks and retrieve something, contact lenses or an item of clothing being the usual suspects!

I had already collected my de rigeur pebble from the Irish Sea beach that I intended to deposit at Sedbury mud flats on the south coast of Wales, and we trundled off, calling by M&S Food in town to buy the sort of stuff that English and Welsh people shouldn’t eat, unless they burn through 5000 calories a day, which is pretty much what I consumed each day. Even with this high consumption of lard, sugar, crisps, sandwiches and beer I still managed to lose 7 kilograms by the time I completed the hike.

Not long after hiking up the first hill we meet a guy, perhaps a decade younger than any of us, with a seriously professional backpack and he looked absolutely “exhausted”. Covered in sweat, quite tanned, thin and just an hour or so from completing the entire hike in 11 days. I couldn’t help but notice that his backpack looked a lot lighter than mine.

Further along we bumped into a lively middle aged couple heading north and found out they had been walking the Offa’s Dyke over the last couple of weeks, carrying light day packs and staying in pre-booked B&Bs along the way.  They told us about their route, how enjoyable the hike was, and that most of the B&Bs they stayed at also picked them up and dropped them off along the Dyke so they didn’t have to walk further than they needed.

Both of these encounters with fellow “Dykees” caused me to reflect on what I was doing, and for my walking companions to gloat that they were doing this hike the “enjoyable and sensible” way.

We walked together, Andrew stopping every ten minutes or so to consult his map, allow Kevin to catch up, garner collective approval we were heading in the correct direction, and then start walking again.

By mid afternoon, Kevin, Simon and later Andrew peeled off to walk to their bed and breakfast, and I continued to my a very nice camping site at Bodfari where I set up my tent and then wandered off to a very swanky pub called the Dinorben Arms and waited for the others.

Inevitably, and after 2 pints of Old Weasel, I received a message from Simon that they had booked a table at the crowded and very popular pub for dinner at 9 pm.  It was 6 pm! No way I would last that long and so I ate on my own and repaired to my tent, read three lines of my book, and was out for the count.


As the others called it a day I am left with my shadow and all the great outdoors for company


A brew of tea or coffee along the way


Following more or less the border between England and Wales 



Blessed with great weather….late Spring is a perfect time



The Offa’s Dyke is easy to navigate as its very well sign posted with the “Acorn” marker. England on your left and Wales on your right. 


Camping in a pub beer garden 


A welcome stop for tea and cakes … had been a hard section


Another lovely section and great weather


One of joys of these British hikes is stopping off at pubs and sampling the ales


And tea shops … a particularly delicious Damson crumble


Not a great deal left… and the bowl would have been licked if I wasn’t been observed by the village biddies



Mountain ponies


Nearly always followed by bullocks when I crossed their fields … reminds me of my childhood.



Path always changing … from woods, to hills, river valleys,to pasture


Half way along … Osprey rucksack doing a good job


Meadows full of wild flowers 


Lots of sheep and ponies….and the odd alpaca 




Canals and rivers 




Lots of magical woods


Charming border town of Knighton and the Offa’s Dyke Centre


A discussion with King Offa about the route


Still on track


Often on my own


Canal Aquaduct


Tintern Abbey


slight altercation with a bramble bush


I got my tent packed up the next day, made my coffee and porridge, and was ready to get going just after dawn. Clearly the “Derby and Joan knitting circle” were all still in their pits and so I left them a message that, just as we had planned, I was setting off on my own and wished them all well.

To make my 20-30 miles a day I had to walk for longer and perhaps slightly quicker and so I was on my todd for the remainder of the hike.  They later told me they pulled the plug on their hike at the end of day 2 and went home. Apparently these retired northerners had other important commitments. Simon’s day pass from the Ayatollah (a.k.a Mrs. B) had expired and he had a Bridge appointment at the weekend! As for Kevin? Who knows?

So, I carried on and eventually completed the hike in 8 days, plus a much needed rest day in the very charming border town, Knighton where I camped in a farmers field next to a river, wandered about, caught up on the grim UK news, sat about in charming tearooms and local pubs, bought new “gel” insoles for my boots, and visited the Offa’s Dyke Centre

Of course I was not the only person walking along the Offa’s Dyke during those sunny days in May and I encountered various types of hikers along the trail.

There were those who I knew full well would get no further than where they were heading that day; elderly couples who had been ticking off sections of the trail over many years; fresh faced looking B&B hikers with day packs skipping merrily along, grizzled old men like Gandolf the Wizard who seemed to be in no hurry and were taking the hike in their stride; a young chap whose mother was following him in her car, collecting him at night, dropping him off in the morning and feeding him along the way (don’t knock it… at least he was doing something active); and I think a total of eight other nutters like me doing the whole trail with full camping gear and various aches, pains and blisters.

Two of the latter kind I met in a pub near the camp site at Llandegla, and who had broken the back of the hike with only another couple of days to finish. Really funny and amusing guys, and yes you guessed it, former police officers…. from Dorset!! Maybe we former “plods” really do miss walking the beat or something?

It was indeed a very tough and arduous hike, very hilly, my feet went through various levels of pain and torture I could barely tolerate, and worse, as a keen biker I had to endured the engine sounds and joie de vivre of an assortment of motorcycles whizzing along the wonderful Welsh roads. Occasionally I would encounter a group of bikers on their racing machines at various road sections and they would always wave at me, or perhaps they were laughing?

I did of course feel a huge sense of accomplishment in completing the hike and it was a big boost to my mind, body and soul. The Offa’s Dyke passes through stunningly beautiful countryside. It was invigorating to breathe the fresh air, admire the glorious wild flowers and greenery, and amble through fields full of Britain’s best livestock and wildlife. I was lucky with the weather, which for the large part was sunny and fresh. The evenings, mostly spent in the country pubs where I could eat and drink to my heart’s delight and yarn with the locals, were an absolute joy.

So, what next? A hike along the Coast to Coast? The Pennine Way?  Appalachian Trail? Perhaps one day soon. But for now the next adventure on the calendar is back on a motorcycle where I plan to ride across Xizang, Xinjiang, Mongolia and Kazakhstan this autumn.








Getting near the end of the 177 mile hike





Typical camping spot. My North face two man tent a tad heavy and replaced the next year for the Coast to Coast hike with the lighter one man Tarptent Moment




Made it to Sedbury …