Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Smiling for the camera

October 18th, 2011

I’d struggled to smile for the camera. An icy descent into Williams Lake. Heavy rain and no need to pedal had meant I soon felt the cold. Unpleasant, prolonged by the need to slow right down, hampered by spray from passing vehicles and rivers of surface water flowing across the tarmac. Beginning to shiver, I’d decided to stop, find a cafe and warm myself up with a coffee. But first I needed some cash.

And that’s when I’d met Rick, journalist for local community tv station www.wlctv.ca. Was I interested in doing a piece to camera? Yes, of course, delighted I said. Coffee could wait. For a little while. You can see the resultant piece on Williams Lake Independent Community Television by clicking here – look for the September 19th weekly show.

Another chance opportunity brightening up an otherwise miserable day. The rain had started as I’d become to strike camp at Deep Creek. Drizzle at first, soon turning heavy. Rick has suggested a local cafe. I’d found it hard to leave, no let up in the weather outside. Pondering how far I’d need to go, confident of better conditions the next day.

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Who’s watching who?

March 25th, 2011

Reassuring face. "Locco". Host of 4CA’s morning show I’d met a few days earlier. And keen cyclist. Ten am. MuzzBuzz drive-thu coffee bar. He’d been up since four. Suspected he needed caffeine more than I did. Felt honoured he’d dropped in on his way home from the studio. Casting an experienced eye over Emma, my trusty steed, and all the kit.

Our conversation brought to a close a little too abruptly than I’d have liked. Arrival of the first of two local TV news crews. Interview. Then riding footage. On the road. Loop after loop. Different angles. Close-ups. The cameraman running alongside for a while. Doing my best to keep the speed to a minimum. Just enough to avoid looking unsteady.

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Second news team. Subtly different style. More close-ups on my trusty steed. Choosing to place the coffee bar in the background. Pulling up for a beverage on the bike would have been a great touch. But, no doubt, perceived as too promotional. Relying, instead, on proprietor Ian to shoot the scene for the website.

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Beyond Batumi

April 22nd, 2010

The plan was simple enough. Head north up the coast to Kobuleti, then inland towards the town of Ozurgeti, the hub of Guria region, meeting up with Eto around four in the afternoon. We’d not had chance to agree exactly we’d rendezvous, but I was confident that if I cycled around the place long enough, she’d find me. Thought I’d be easy to spot, couldn’t be that many Englishmen on bikes looking lost. Worked quite well. Actually, when I arrived in the centre I spotted a TV cameraman, and made straight for him. Struck me as a good idea, he even filmed me for a while but then disappeared. Never worked out who he was, and nobody else seemed to know either.

Eto and Nazi

Eto – on the left in the photograph – explained they’d been a slight change of plan, I’d be staying twenty miles further on in the small town of Chakhatauri, close to where she lived. Her father George had brought the car so there was no need to cycle. Unfortunately, three people, Emma, all my panniers and a Lada wasn’t going to work, so we compromised – they’d take the luggage and I’d cycle there.

But, by now five in the evening, it was first time for dinner and a new dish – Khinkali – described by Georgians as a meal in itself because it contains meat and potatoes in a pasta parcel. Just like the Khachapuri Merab had introduced me to back in Batumi, there’s an art to eating this. You must make sure the juice inside the parcel does not spill out, gingerly biting a small nick and drinking the contents. Sounds simple enough. Took three attempts to get right.

The ride to Chakhatauri was swift, Eto and her father meeting me every few kilometres, and the scenery quite beautiful. A brief climb up from Ozurgeti, then a fast, winding descent onto a wide, flat river flood plain, bounded by steep wooded mountainsides and snow covered peaks on the southern side, the Lesser Caucasus, the sun setting behind me.

Homestay

It had been an intriguing day, an unexpected but enjoyable ending, but it wasn’t quite over. Eto had arranged for me to stay in the village with Luara, more of a home stay than a bed and breakfast. Greeted with tea and cake, one last thing to do before retiring, an interview with local journalist Kate, Eto acting as interpreter and George offering a few questions of his own. Intrigued to know what would happen if I fell in love along the way. Thought my answer very diplomatic.

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Welcome to Georgia

April 22nd, 2010

Interview at the border

It did seem a bit strange at the time, a cursory look at my passport, entry stamp, then beckoned by a border guard past all the cars being meticulously searched. It was as if I was expected. Which, it turned out later, I was.

Emerged from customs control to be greeted with Georgian wine, chocolates, local TV and radio. Bit of a surprise, but the interviews – in English I hasten to add – seemed to go well, especially given Emma and I had just sprinted over ten miles to reach the border on time, unexpectedly delayed by a puncture, the second in two days. But that was Turkey, and this was Georgia, and we were already captivated, intrigued by what lay ahead.

[Photograph courtesy of Merab Diasamidze, Batumi Business School, Republic of Georgia]

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