The Next Trail?

March 1, 2011 07:05 by Sam

Hi everyone,

Hannibal is back on the BBC so this prompted us to start planning our next historical journey. We would love everyones input - we have a few ideas so have made a poll on our website...

If you look on our homepage on the righthand side you will see the poll. Please vote and please feel free to send us any other ideas you think of!





Jama Charity Fund

July 7, 2010 05:50 by Sam

We have started up a charity fund to help the village of Jama. This is possibly where Hannibal fought his last great battle against Scipio, known as the battle of Zama and it was where we ended our journey following Hannibal's Trail.

We are aiming to raise 3000 US dollars which will be used to improve living conditions in the village, possibly either the school building or the water supply.  We saw the current water system which was a well about 500 metres from the village which kids on donkeys would regularly go to to fill up from. 

It was amazing to see 2000 year old Roman water works right next to this village which were more sophisticated than the village's current system.

Please have a look at or click on the link on the right - Donate to find out more.


Sam, Danny and Ben

Danny walking in front of the Roman ruins at Zama /Jama. Behind these are rows of vast barrel vaulted Roman water cisterns.

Off to the well for water

Radio National Australia Interview

January 14, 2010 18:11 by Sam

Travel Tales: Retracing the steps of an ancient military leader. This is an interview Ben and Danny did for ABC radio in Australia.

Cuirassnapper Heads

November 16, 2009 17:33 by Sam

Our journey with the film crew continued to Lake Trasimene, where as described in a previous blog, Hannibal won a major battle against the Romans.....

For us it was much less dramatic - a dodgy highway hotel in Tuoro where we hung out our wet shoes and clothes soaked from our journey into the swamps and then a revisit to the 'Ciao Ciao' bar.  This time we were there to film the sunrise over Lake Trasimene rather than have a night out, like we did last time with our guest riders Perry and Will.  On that first occasion we got stuck in a square dancing, country music, over 50's night! The fact that we came back means this was obviously excellent recceeing!

Dancing Ciao Ciao

Sunrise at Lake Trasimene

Hannibal didn't get into Rome but it was a must stop for filming, especially as we planned to visit the Quirinale which is the president's palace.  Here they have the most famous likeness of Hannibal.


Hannibal keeping an eye on John..

The Quirinale is a very security conscious place - We were first checked out by the police as we filmed in the piazza out the front, then met by the Cuirassiers. The Cuirassiers are the presidents personal guard - to qualify for this, the application says, you have to be over 190cm tall and extremely good looking - only Italians would come up with these prerequisites - nothing about being able to protect the president or be intelligent or capable - as long as you are big and handsome that is all the president needs!

Italians love uniforms too so you can imagine these guys... dressed up poncing about trying to look as big and beautiful as possible. They seemed constantly amazed at their own beauty while we struggled to take them seriously especially when they told us that we were not dressed appropriately, of course this being the prime issue with a security force - no shorts allowed in the president's residence! Luckily they let us off after we promised to tell everyone about them - and the reality is that we have never taken our shorts off in 10 weeks of cycling so to do so, even for the president of Italy was highly unlikely!

The other force we met in Rome was the 12th legion - Caesar's own soldiers, a re-inactment group who paraded around the Roman forum and were great to talk to - no pretensions and seemingly much more capable than their pretty and giant compatriots, they would have made a much more apt guard for the president!

Authentic Romans...

We beat him up after this photo...

We continued to Pozzuoli where we slept in a campsite in the crater of a volcano. It really stank - considering our shoes were still wet from the swamps many days before and we only own 3 coloured t-shirts each, it must have been very bad to overcome our dull senses! We did manage to cycle through the steam it produces and cook an egg on one of the geysers - I wouldn't recommend it - Egg cooked on volcanic sulphur gas makes basically, its pretty horrible to imagine, let alone taste like we had to for the camera - fart flavoured eggs! The reason we stayed here is because Lake Averno is around the corner - the entrance to the Roman underworld. Hannibal came here to make an offering to the dead to try and see his future - we too made a offering - water, wine, milk, honey and barley as he may have but we just thanked the Gods for not being run over so far - Italians drivers are not the greatest with cyclists!

Solfatarna at Pozzouli

The steam was frizzing my hair it was a bit worrying!

Our days off we look forward too and with Naples so close we decided to go in for the night - John the cameraman took us to a local restaurant he knew which was excellent and we also shopped for Italian fashions.... Each year it seems the locals choose a colour and everyone wears it religiously, especially at passagiata - when everyone comes out for their evening walk. This year the colour is Purple so Ben and I got some quality purchases - multiple purple tracksuits, shirts, vests, jackets, gloves and belts... the shop assistant was fairly confused as we continually insisted we only buy in purple but happy as we bought half of their shop! We have tested these fashions since and the Italians in the passagiatas are always impressed by our kit! The only problem we have now is shoes - Since Ben and Danny lost their flip flops at the Rhone crossing they have been wearing white slippers out most nights - the sort escapees from a physc ward might wear so no matter the clothes we are still looked down upon by the fashionatas of Italy!

Italian Fashions at their very best!

Barcelona Metropolitan Article

November 16, 2009 13:31 by Sam

An article in the Barcelona Metropolitan about our journey:

BBC History Magazine latest - Cannae

November 14, 2009 13:35 by Sam

Cannae, for warmongers, to this day the biggest loss of life in a single day of battle:

The Guest Blog...

November 11, 2009 17:35 by Sam

When Will and I arrived in Florence a shattered, slim and sunburnt Sam and a 5k ride greeted us. This was fun at the time because by this time we had packed our trip full of beers already. Will was particularly excited because on the corner of every street stood prostitutes in their underwear.  The distractions almost forced him to crash on day one, he had some “close shaves” I tell you. Such incidents were labelled “the prostitute wheel wobbles” and later became a feature in our riding as we hit the relentless and steep rolling hills of the punishing Tuscan, or should I say Spartan challenge that lay ahead. The ‘prostitute wheel wobble’ would begin with a quick shimmy of the handlebars as Will’s ogling eyes would lead his head away from the road in front, around his curb side shoulder to take in the pre-Raphaelite bouncing bevy of beauties that lured motorists to deviate from their routes. A warning parp of a passing horn would snap Will from his reverie, causing him to hastily correct his trajectory that would release latent kinetic energy into his bulging panniers that would set the read end of his velocipede waddling like a duck. The flexing of Will’s rear end was often our salvation as we several times reached what we thought was the limits of our endurance.  A quick waggle-dance of Will’s wheeled wonder was all we needed to fill our harrowed lungs with fresh gusts from our twentieth wind and speed our way onwards to Rome. By the way, contrary to popular myth, all roads do not lead to Rome. In fact, I suspect some one at the BBC has a most mischievous sense of humour as each of the Wood Bros.’ GPS told a different story about which route we should take.  I doff my hat to Mr and Mrs Wood for breeding such even-tempered offspring.

The way out of Florence..

The way out of Florence II..

So after a late night, we began our 1st days riding around Florence taking in the views as we rode. Fresh off the boat I was nearly killed by a fast moving ambulance, an enthusiastic and daring tourist and a suicidal city pigeon. Will took photos and Wood brothers watched, laughed and relished the injection of new and entertaining blood.
Our initial (Will and I) experience of sampling what Sam, Ben and Danny have been faced with over the past 6 weeks truly gave us an insight of how difficult their adventure has actually been. We have three modest brothers here who never really tell the full story to add credit to their efforts. Will and I faced the first 2K’s of our exit out of Florence up some seriously steep hills; so steep that Hannibal’s elephants would have refused to take on and gone on strike had they been French elephants.  Nothing new to the Woods and I sensed they had done much steeper. It was fair to say we were in pieces when we finally reached the top. Will was overtaken by a  veteran in his olive delivery bike (may have been a relative of Hannibal) within the first 500 metres.  Will also had this phantom gear changing issue, which forced him to stop. He would somehow make his chain slip off and grind our climb to a halt. I was personally all over it but I sensed the Wood brother’s anger because they lost the momentum gathered on their 4-ton tour bikes. Later in the ride Will’s derailleur issue became more and more of a happy event as it forced us all to stop and wait for him. A very much-needed call after a flat out ride of 50K’s!
We were finally rewarded with a downhill roll leaving Florence behind us. The views were incredible. The quiet road (quiet because Will and I couldn’t speak) led us past vineyards and farmhouses as we headed to our lunchtime destination (5 hours of mainly uphill climbs) at a small town called Chianti. The Woods pulled out a mini camp stove from their bottomless panniers and knocked up a nut, raisin and rhubarb cous cous number while Will and leant on each other sharing my asthma inhaler. It became very apparent that these boys are true touring professionals and carried an item for every need. They even have team coloured plates, cutlery (double ended with a folk at one end and a spoon at the other, oh and of course one edge of the folk was serrated) and bowls. Will and I used their multi-purpose Leathermans which practically had everything less an oxygen tank).
After lunch and once Will had completed his yoga session, we struggled back to our bikes.

Will's Yoga

The next 5K’s were free. A downhill that led us away from the hills in which I took the opportunity to stand up all the way and give my ass cheeks a break from my solid bike seat made of  wood. Will had unfortunately forgot to bring the Elizabeth Arden 48hour cream that he had promised was Lance Armstrong’s secret weapon. I realised in that moment that the reason the world’s best cyclists are so small and light is because they grate off most of their pelvic girdle like cheese on their saddles as they weave and wind their way through the strenuous hill climbs.

Sore Perry

8 hours later, 90 pints of water lost, 1 inhaler used and 100 kilometres of mainly uphill riding, we reached our destination, Arezzo.  Little did we know and one thing that the Wood brothers satnavs never picked up was that Arezzo’s annual Veterinary and Gastro Festival happened to be this weekend. The population of 5 thousands rises to 50 thousand for 2 days only. We were forced out and further to a town called Cortona 20km away. Not great news while the temperature had now reached 5 degrees.  Cortona was a beautiful place which sat at the TOP of a 3K steep climb. So steep in fact that Will and I walked it, while still managing to keep up with the Wood brothers who remained in their saddles as their mind boggling gear ratios enabled them to scale all but a vertical wall like mountain goats.  Danny insisted on repeating “just 1.5k’s left” every 500 meters which drove us mental. The wind was now 80 knots per hour, the temperature was -20 degrees and it was 9pm. After Will and I checked into what seemed like the warmest hotel on the planet, we finally ate dinner and paid tribute to the fitness levels of the Wood brothers. Will insisted to pay for dinner (I think it’s because we had heckled them for losing so much weight over the past 6 weeks since their journey began. it was Will’s way of ensuring that they eat a good meal). All jokes a side (I will come onto jokes), these boys really do work so hard behind the scenes and it’s incredible. The Wood Brothers are the antithesis of Gordon Ramsay; no swearing, no finger pointing, no grandstanding; just an unerring focus on the objective and the best way of achieving it. In the House of Wood, teamwork makes the dream work.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Hannibal the Carthaginian would have had Hannibal the Cannibal for dinner! The drivers of a man that led an army composed of such disparate factions across hostile and untamed lands to pit its wits and mite against one of the world’s most experienced, wise and formidable adversaries (Rome) boggle the mind. So far from home and hearth, from the touch of a loved one, yet so strong and deliberate in his actions. Few of us could imagine this level of commitment and pro patria amore. The Woods were moved by this tale and rallied to it far too many moons ago to count. We have been fortunate enough to enjoy the fruits of their concept and we are proud to be part of history in the unveiling. Hannibal, those who were just almost about to die salute you. (Classical allusion for all you oiks that went to comprehensive schools!)

BBC History Magazine - Lake Trasimene

November 2, 2009 03:09 by Sam

Our next installment - Hannibal starting to destroy the Romans....

Business Efficiency Consultant takes over as Dictator

October 29, 2009 17:39 by Sam

Dictatorship for me meant we could do what (I thought!) we always planned to do... get up early, get most of the riding done before lunch, have a good break, a big Italian lunch then cruise the last 20-30 km to our destination arriving in time to set up comfortably before finding or cooking dinner.

This is not to say my brothers wouldn't be usually up for this!?!?! It does often sounds better than it is and filming has meant we have done most of our kilometres in the afternoon so to say the 2 days I ruled have been the only days we have rode more in the morning than in the afternoon would be no exaggeration. Quite a pathetic legacy but my second legacy makes me an even more boring leader. The two days I ruled we came in under budget! I think again these are our only days when this has happened!

Being a Roman archaeologist I really should have gone for orgies, feasts, massive building projects, maybe some gladiatorial combat or some empirical warring. Instead I went for early starts and cheap days - exciting stuff! I am the dictator of Health and Efficiency!

A Roman bridge on the way to Cannae

On my first day we rode to Cannae where Hannibal obliterated a numerically superior Roman army. On the way my tyre literally exploded, causing my back wheel to swim and swerve as I attempted to pull off the road. It wasn't a great omen for my rule and I almost ended up under a white van! (driven by the Italian equivalent of the white van men of London - aggressive, abusive drivers but with style!)

At Cannae Hannibal used a tactic still used and taught today - the double envelopment. Basically as the armies lined up, Hannibal made his centre weak so the Romans forced it back when they attacked. He then defeated the Roman wings and swept around enveloping and slaughtering the Roman soldiers who had forced back his centre. It is estimated that up to 70000 men died - the most killed in a single day of battle ever - or to compare it to another devastating event, a similar number to those killed by the nuclear bomb at Hiroshima.

A commemorative column which overlooks the battlefield at Cannae

We arrived at our destination in good time and enjoyed a healthy salad and pasta, perfect and nutritious for our days ahead!

On my second day of rule we rode through our wettest day yet from Altamura to Taranto. We were all soaked through but it was a great ride made even better after a days rest in Altamura (Ben's rule - If you get a choice make him your leader, very relaxing!). We exited the city through varying levels of water and at times felt we were going to be swept away. However time keeping was good and we stopped in Palagiano where the Barista Caesar gave us free coffees so the budget was looking even better!! We then rode on to Taranto all in good time - another efficient day of cycle touring!

Danny riding through the deluges which crossed all roads out of Altamura

Arrival in Taranto - safe and sound!

Allies Arrive

October 25, 2009 04:03 by Sam

We went to Pavia for two reasons - to meet an old frield - Frederico Marcesi or Feddo as he bacame known in Australia where everyone's name must be shortened and end with an o or y. And to visit the place where Hannibal had his first battle with the Romans. The first obviously took preference and Feddo took us out in Pavia - its a beautiful university town famous for its extraordinary towers, built by competitive rich men during the Renaissance. The taller the tower, the richer and more powerful you were. However I imagine they were even more symbolic than that - a bit like a red sportscar or long camera lens today, products of renaissance mid life crises!

The covered bridge at Pavia

The 'towers' of Pavia!

Hannibal also fought two battles here - one a brief encounter at the river Ticinus. Here he routed the Roman army who then retreated to Trebbia, a river further south near Piancenza. Hannibal followed and even though the Romans were reinforced he heavily defeated them. Here he first showed his tactical nouse.  He lured the Romans with a small contigent of his force out of their camp early in the morning, unfed over a freezing river in the middle of winter. The Romans were cold, wet and hungry. Hannibal's main force was well fed, well slept and ready for battle - Hannibal had also put sent his youngest brother Mago to hide in the reeds to spring a trap once the Romans were across the river - Hence they won very convincingly.

Unfortunately for Hannibal all but one of his elephants died here, not of war wounds but of the cold - the last elephant Sirius survived on to carry Hannibal (who lost an eye here from disease) across swamps and down towards Florence - where we next headed to meet our own allies.

Between Pavia and Piacenza there was a brief moment of panic. We were riding along embankments built to protect neighbouring farmland from flooding and noticed a huge nuclear power station in the distance. We rode straight past the front door. All was eerily quiet until an alarm started sounding! One thing Hannibal didn't have to contend with was a nuclear meltdown in Emilia-Romagna. For some reason schoolboy physics equations came to mind; effective neutron multiplication factors, prompt neutron lifetime, mean free path, nuclear number long did we have until we were fatally irradiated...then we realised, without a great deal of relief, that the alarm was coming from the sewerage plant next door...we sprinted even faster!

Danny taking notes, Ben doing bikecam! On the plains bewtween Pavia and Piacenza

Signs of Hannibal!

After 6 weeks of filming and riding and with a gap in our schedule we sent out a call for cyclists - This was answered by Willo and Perry ( o and y of course) whom we met in Florence with the aim of riding to Rome in 3 days.  Here are photos of our trip together, it was brilliant to have them along. They drove us along with terrible jokes, some of which will no doubt follow. After our first days cycling from Florence to Cortona, where they invariably led the pack doing the lion's share of the work - Perry led us home even when his legs were failing and I've never seen Willo so quiet but he drove us out to our best dinner of our whole trip at Cortona.

Their guest blog follows!!

Preparing lunch outside Florence in the Tuscan hills with Willo and Perry

The leaning tower


Cortona II

From Cortona - Willo telling his Padre joke next to the Le Celle Monastery! Lake Trasimene in the background...

Perry and Will cooking our fresh pasta lunch - excellent guests!

Via Cartaginese - more signs of Hannibal - A column dedicated to the battle at Lake Trasimene in the mirror


Perry on the Cross

Farewell photo at the Servian Wall at Rome Termini

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About the authors

Danny, Ben and Sam Wood are three brothers who followed in the footsteps of three ancient Carthaginian brothers Hannibal, Hasdrubal and Mago. They cycled from Cartagena, Spain to Zama, Tunisia - the route that Hannibal and his army took over 2200 years ago. Along the way they filmed a documentary which was aired on BBC4 in July and August 2010.


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