• Hannibal, Us and Him

    Andreas Kluth, author of, Hannibal and Me: What History's Greatest Military Leader Can Teach Us About Success and Failure has written a fun post about On Hannibal's Trail at his blog:

    http://andreaskluth.org/2012/01/26/hannibalhasdrubalmago-dannybensam/

    The idea of Andreas' book is that stories about lives like Hannibal's can offer lessons and parallels to all of us.  Andreas has been fascinated by the life of Hannibal since he was a child and finally left his job as an investment banker because of this and a feeling that his job lacked purpose. He says, "Hannibal also warns us, like Einstein and Tennessee Williams and other creative people, how easy it is to let success become a prison. I mean a prison of the imagination. What made these people successful was a certain irreverence, an openness to radical ideas, a disdain for conventional wisdom. But success makes people less open to such ideas. So successful people must do some unorthodox things to stay open, creative, supple."

  • Behind the Scenes

    Hi everyone  - I just thought I'd take the chance to reply to comments we have had about On Hannibal's trail on twitter, facebook and on various blogs!

    Firstly thanks to everyone for comments - lots of very nice ones which are very encouraging to read!

    To answer a few of the questions which have arisen about scenes in the show so far -

    The punctures were a pain - schwalbe marathon tyres so yes I agree shouldn't have been so bad - my brother road over a bit of wire which wound its way into the tyre so we would fix it and pull out a piece of wire thinking that was it only to find more deeper as it would puncture again! We ended up pulling out a piece of wire about 5cms long all which was 'inside' the rubber...

    Tyres and Panniers....suspicious!!!


    The panniers were full and we did carry them! I hate that shot where we have no panniers I knew it would haunt us!! For those of you who missed it it is in the opening credits every episode so it haunts us every time!! That shot was taken as you can see at sunset. We had ridden a full day were exhausted and had set up for the night - it was about 5 days into the trip so we not experienced with the film crew workings - the bbc crew said they had spotted a nice road which they wanted to film us on so we jumped on our bikes and road to it and basically forgot to put our panniers on - stupid i know but as most those of you who are touring bike riders you will know how tired you feel each evening in the first week of a bike tour so you might understand this was a genuine mistake!

    As for carrying the tent - yep terra nova laser large chosen for low weight and capacity as well as privacy. THey are great light weight tents, they are very big - we wanted this because we felt we may have to camp rough and wanted to be able to put our bikes in the porch which we could just with these. Thirdly 3 tents for privacy - have you spent 11 weeks with your 2 siblings riding and working very long days - (riding was amazing but we either did that at the height of the sun in the middle of the day as bad for filming or even when dark as the filming took priority mornings and afternoons when it would have been great to have been on the road) and then sleeping packed in a tent?! We all decided the extra 2 kgs was worth it! Someone also noticed the tents were on the back panniers early on and then dissapeared! About a week in we culled alot of stuff due to weight - I must admit that every bike tour i go on I dump alot of stuff fairly early either through being overly ambitious to begin with or just realising it is hard work and wanting to reduce my load! We did exactly this - for example my brother Danny was carrying 5 books - Polybius, Livy etc serious historical tombs! This culling gave us room in our panniers. If you know laser larges you will know they have a air vent at the back end which is held up by a single pole which is the longest part of the tent 'package'. Breaking these in half meant they fit inside one of the rear panniers - not ideal but it worked...

    Books

                                                                                                                 Hard Choices....


    As for the load variation - we did have 5 panniers which is a lot of space - the front ones were often pretty empty and sometimes we carried food, sometimes we didnt we also carried mini cameras at times when we were away from the crew and not when they were around so yes I can see the variation but there is nothing sinister about it. We all wanted to do it genuinely and the reality was we had no choice - the bbc crew was only with us for 7 of the 11 weeks.

    And no wags! I had a kid 3 months before I left so I was very popular going off for a bike ride and anyway a 3 month old wouldn't have gone very well in a tent!

    As for riding 3 in a breast (sorry that is what our camera man used to shout out to us he isn't a cyclist!) yep not a great example but looks better for filming - we heard him shout this alot!

                                                                                                 3 in a breast


    I think that is it! If there is anything else please ask. If you have any suggestions for next time please let us know as we trying to plan another now and we are thinking we may try to get lots of touring cyclists along for a leg!

  • Hitting the Road

    The first episode of On Hannibal's Trail that aired last Friday did okay we think.  We're not sure how to judge this, but 'Hitting the Road' was watched by more than 1 million people in the UK which is about four times the viewing figures we were getting on BBCFour when the show aired for the first time back in 2010.   You can read more about that here (if you really want to):

    http://www.digitalspy.com/british-tv/s150/celebrity-big-brother/news/a361380/celebrity-big-brother-double-eviction-scores-25m-for-channel-5.html 

    The Times newspaper said quite nice things about this opening episode in a preview on January 14th.  We couldn't access this review until now because The Times is for subscribers only, but here it is:

    On Hannibal’s Trail - BBC Two, 8.30pm 

    Originally shown on BBC Four in 2010 as part of the channel’s Call of the Wild season, On Hannibal’s Trail is an odd beast. It is a six-part series in which the Australian journalist Danny Wood and his two brothers, Sam and Ben, cycle 2,500 miles from Spain to Italy to retrace the steps of the Carthaginian commander and it sits somewhere between historiography and adventure bromance. Of the three, Sam is an archaeologist for whom Hannibal is a hero, so there is no shortage of insight. In tonight’s opening episode the trio pass through the palms of Elche, the beaches of Benidorm and Valencia’s zoo, meeting the Australian cyclist Matthew Lloyd along the way. 

    That review was by David Chater - thanks David! And yes we did depend heavily on Sam, not just for insights but to drag us over all those hills!  And at the end of the next episode, 'Barca! Barca! Barca!', that airs Friday 27th Jan at 830pm, we meet our first real hills in the Pyrenees and have a lot of fun getting there.  The territory we pass through - from the Ebro Delta, to Barcelona, to the ancient ruins of Ampurias and finally the Pyrenees, is really pretty but I don't think we were appreciating it quite as much as we should have at the time because we were distracted by the physical strain of our epic adventure.  Through our visit to the ruins of Ampurias we were also getting more of a feel for the sort of man Hannibal was, what his civilization was like but also how difficult it is for historians today to really come to grips with what this civilization was really like. Alberto Ruiz Cabrero from the Phoenician and Punic Studies Centre at Madrid's Complutense University had this to say in our 'Experts' section:

    "In spite of the fact that the Phoenicians brought the alphabet to the ancient world, because of the fact that they wrote on Papyrus, we've lost all their documentation. Their position between an Oriental or Semitic style court and the innovations on which Hellenistic societies were based is a great unkown for investigators."  

    Hopefully we shed a little light in Episode 2.  One of the funny and embarrassing moments in tomorrow's episode occurrs on the beach when we feast on a suckling pig  - a welcome break from the pasta you might say, well, not exactly.  When the piglet isn't gulped down quite as heartily as it could have been if we'd liked our pork on the rare side, our friend and chef Adam Melonas doesn't quite do a Gordon Ramsay on us, but, well, you'll see.  I hope Adam still thinks of me as a friend. 

  • Barcelona

    In Episode 2 of On Hannibal's Trail we ride through Barcelona which just happens to be where I am right now. The city is famed for it's architecture (among other things) and one of the most unusual, and perhaps my favourite architectural feat here are the ruins of the Roman temple of Augustus that are inside a 19th Century block of flats. You walk down a dingy, urine soaked alley in the old Gothic quarter of the city, turn a corner into what you expect might be a run down council flat, you brace yourself for the drug addict asking you for money whilst trying to avoid the minefield of dog poo and then 4 huge columns rise above you in the enclosed courtyard of the building. An experience as surreal and enjoyable as any of the Gaudi buildings in the rest of the city.

    Temple of Augustus, Barcelona

    The Temple of Augustus in Barcelona

    Just around the corner from the temple is the church of San Felipe Neri which has a more sinister history. During the Civil War the church was a school and orphanage that was heavily bombed by the Fascists killing many of the children. The facade is still pock marked from the war - some locals say this was not actually from the bombing but from when the Fascist forces took the city and lined up people here to be shot. The crowds of tourists don't seem to penetrate here and according to locals twenty years ago it was a 'no-go' area but now it has a designer hotel and a designer bike hire shop so some things never change!

    Iglesia San Felipe Neri, Barcelona

    The pock marked walls of the Church of San Felipe Neri


    We missed these things interesting things when we were filming On Hannibal's Trail but we hope you enjoy episode 2!

    Reyes procession

    Reyes procession

    The 'Reyes Magos' procession in a small village in Catalonia

  • Ride with Hannibal!

    Ride and Seek Bike Tours logo

    I just wanted to let everyone know that I am back on the trail of Hannibal in 2012 and I hope that you will join me there!


    I have teamed up with an experienced bike guide, Dylan Reynolds, who has run tours in Europe for the last 12 years to create Ride and Seek Bike Tours. We will return to Hannibal's trail in September next year to ride from Barcelona to Rome hopefully with lots of cycling and history enthusiasts! We have broken up the trip into 3 stages all which have huge appeal historically as well as being beautiful cycles.


    The Hannibal Expedition passes through some of the most beautiful cycling areas in Europe - Catalonia, Languedoc, Provence, Piedmont, Tuscany and Umbria among others. It takes us over the Pyrenees, Alps and Apennines. We will ride where Hannibal marched, cross mountain chains and rivers he traversed, visit sites where he encountered Gallic tribes and his eternal enemy Rome. We will also embrace the abundant cultural elements of these areas as we meander our way down the road less travelled by modern day tourists.


    Stage 1 takes us through classic cycling in Northern Spain and Southern France:

    •    Beautiful quiet roads and Spanish Pueblos in Girona home to many cycling teams
    •    The quietest route over the Pyrenees where we can test our legs in preparation for the ride ahead.
    •    Beautiful Southern Gaul or what some may call France - Vineyards, classic towns and cuisine!
    •    Elephants for anyone who wishes to see both alive and in history!
    •    Provence and the Rhone one of Hannibal's greatest early obstacles
    •    Stage 1 ends in Avignon seat of the Popes and one of Provence's most beautiful towns.

    Ride and Seek vines Ride and Seek ride

    Stage 2 of journey in the footsteps of Hannibal takes us on perhaps the most iconic leg of his journey – across the Alps. We won’t have 39 war elephants to provide us support but we will have our support vehicles to lend us a hand if you need it. Highlights of this journey include:

    •    The chance to climb Mont Ventoux, Alp D’Huez, Col Agnel and/or Col du Izoard (or none of them!) – classic climbs of the tour de France ridden by tour winners such as Lance Armstrong and Cadel Evans, skirted by legends such as Hannibal!
    •    Classic Alpine pass riding – following Hannibal’s most likely route will not take us in a straight line but it will talk us through some of the most spectacular areas of the French Alps.
    •    A chance to follow Hannibal’s most likely route – one of the most debated parts of Hannibal’s journey is where he crossed the Alps – we give you a choice – trek or cycle Italy is the destination!
    •    Piedmont - arguably Italy's finest region for cycling and gastronomy

    Ride and Seek bike tours

    Stage 3 of the Hannibalic Odyssey takes us from Piedmont to Rome through classic Italy:

    •    Piedmont – The Italian's Italy - hilltowns, gastronomic delights, beautiful cycling.
    •    The Padana flatlands known as the bread basket of Italy where a number of Italy’s culinary jewels are found
    •    The Appenines – not the Pyrennes or Alps but a challenge none the less but with Tuscany and Umbira on the south side worth the effort!
    •    Renaissance Italy on the road less travelled meandering our way through Tuscany and Umbria.
    •    Lazio provides us with our final Italian canvas, the prominence of Roman heritage increasing as we make our way towards Rome.
    •    Hanniballic History - Trebbia, Trasimene, Arno Swamps and Rome.

    Ride and Seek Bike Tours Tuscany

    These are the 3 stages of the Hannibal Expedition. You can ride 1,2 or 3 of these. If you are willing to do all 3 then we call this the Epic!

    Epic! Ride from Barcelona to Rome taking in all of the stages of the Hannibal Expedition!

    This is no tour around the countryside, this is a 2500km ride through 3 countries arguably taking in the greatest cycling areas in Europe all in one tour. If you do one Epic expedition tour in your life then this is it.

    Ride and Seek Bike Tours Carthaginians


    For more information please go to our website – www.rideandseek.com and we do offer more tours than just the Hannibal Expedition! We offer many more relaxed tours which take the cutural, historical and gastronomical delights of France and Italy. We call these our Classic Tours. Also please feel free to for more information.

  • Hannibal Quiz

    Hi everyone as Hannibal is premiering on BBC2 tonight at 8:30 pm the BBC History Magazine has a Hannibal quiz going - have a go it is actually pretty hard!

    Hannibal Quiz

  • BBC2 to air On Hannibal'sTrail!

    Great News! We've just heard from our Executive Producer Chris that at 830pm on January 20th 'On Hannibal's Trail' will start rebroadcasting in the UK on BBC2!

    Long Live Hannibal!

  • Jama Fund Update

    With all the positive changes in some parts of the Middle East - Tunisia included - and the disruptions that has caused, the Jama Fund donation is still in a holding pattern six months after the US$1600 was delivered to microfinance group Enda inter-arabe. There is some movement!  Michael Cracknell from inter-arabe says they are chasing this up and have reasked the Jama locals what they'd like to do with the money. It is possible that the money will be used to improve the toilets or possibly update the school's computers. Thanks for your patience donors!  And Happy New Year!

  • Come ride with Hannibal?

    Ride and Seek Bike Tours logo

    I just wanted to let everyone know that I am back on the trail of Hannibal in 2012 and I hope that you will join me there!


    I have teamed up with an experienced bike guide, Dylan Reynolds, who has run tours in Europe for the last 12 years to create Ride and Seek Bike Tours. We will return to Hannibal's trail in September next year to ride from Barcelona to Rome hopefully with lots of cycling and history enthusiasts! We have broken up the trip into 3 stages all which have huge appeal historically as well as being beautiful cycles.


    The Hannibal Expedition passes through some of the most beautiful cycling areas in Europe - Catalonia, Languedoc, Provence, Piedmont, Tuscany and Umbria among others. It takes us over the Pyrenees, Alps and Apennines. We will ride where Hannibal marched, cross mountain chains and rivers he traversed, visit sites where he encountered Gallic tribes and his eternal enemy Rome. We will also embrace the abundant cultural elements of these areas as we meander our way down the road less travelled by modern day tourists.


    Stage 1 takes us through classic cycling in Northern Spain and Southern France:

    •    Beautiful quiet roads and Spanish Pueblos in Girona home to many cycling teams
    •    The quietest route over the Pyrenees where we can test our legs in preparation for the ride ahead.
    •    Beautiful Southern Gaul or what some may call France - Vineyards, classic towns and cuisine!
    •    Elephants for anyone who wishes to see both alive and in history!
    •    Provence and the Rhone one of Hannibal's greatest early obstacles
    •    Stage 1 ends in Avignon seat of the Popes and one of Provence's most beautiful towns.

    Ride and Seek vines Ride and Seek ride

    Stage 2 of journey in the footsteps of Hannibal takes us on perhaps the most iconic leg of his journey – across the Alps. We won’t have 39 war elephants to provide us support but we will have our support vehicles to lend us a hand if you need it. Highlights of this journey include:

    •    The chance to climb Mont Ventoux, Alp D’Huez, Col Agnel and/or Col du Izoard (or none of them!) – classic climbs of the tour de France ridden by tour winners such as Lance Armstrong and Cadel Evans, skirted by legends such as Hannibal!
    •    Classic Alpine pass riding – following Hannibal’s most likely route will not take us in a straight line but it will talk us through some of the most spectacular areas of the French Alps.
    •    A chance to follow Hannibal’s most likely route – one of the most debated parts of Hannibal’s journey is where he crossed the Alps – we give you a choice – trek or cycle Italy is the destination!
    •    Piedmont - arguably Italy's finest region for cycling and gastronomy

    Ride and Seek bike tours

    Stage 3 of the Hannibalic Odyssey takes us from Piedmont to Rome through classic Italy:

    •    Piedmont – The Italian's Italy - hilltowns, gastronomic delights, beautiful cycling.
    •    The Padana flatlands known as the bread basket of Italy where a number of Italy’s culinary jewels are found
    •    The Appenines – not the Pyrennes or Alps but a challenge none the less but with Tuscany and Umbira on the south side worth the effort!
    •    Renaissance Italy on the road less travelled meandering our way through Tuscany and Umbria.
    •    Lazio provides us with our final Italian canvas, the prominence of Roman heritage increasing as we make our way towards Rome.
    •    Hanniballic History - Trebbia, Trasimene, Arno Swamps and Rome.

    Ride and Seek Bike Tours Tuscany

    These are the 3 stages of the Hannibal Expedition. You can ride 1,2 or 3 of these. If you are willing to do all 3 then we call this the Epic!

    Epic! Ride from Barcelona to Rome taking in all of the stages of the Hannibal Expedition!

    This is no tour around the countryside, this is a 2500km ride through 3 countries arguably taking in the greatest cycling areas in Europe all in one tour. If you do one Epic expedition tour in your life then this is it.

    Ride and Seek Bike Tours Carthaginians


    For more information please go to our website – www.rideandseek.com and we do offer more tours than just the Hannibal Expedition! We offer many more relaxed tours which take the cutural, historical and gastronomical delights of France and Italy. We call these our Classic Tours. Also please feel free to for more information.

  • Specific Absorption Rates via Caerleon

    Detail of Caerwent Roman Wall

    We went to Wales recently for a short break knowing we were entering a part of the UK with some its most intact Roman ruins. The Romans invaded Wales in 48 AD. Some local tribes resisted but as far as archaeologists can tell the major forts in the south stopped being fully garrisoned by about 120 AD. The Welsh became Romanised and supplied the empire with gold, copper and lead but the landscape didn’t lend itself well to Roman industrialisation so as the mines were exhausted they were abandoned and at the far reaches of the empire Wales never become a and sophisticated and cultured “colonia” – some say it still hasn’t! (not me)

    Caerleon Roman Amphitheatre

    Caerleon Roman Amphitheatre

    In the rolling hills of Wales you will suddenly find yourself on a dead straight road and assume it must be Roman. But before you can fully appreciate the ancient engineering feat half a dozen mad Welsh drivers going 5 times the speed limit will try to run you off the road. So we were feeling very lucky to arrive safely at our first stop; Caerleon. It was a legionary fortress and one of two responsible for the control of Wales (Chester was the other). The Second Legion Augusta was based here and they left behind lots of ruins; the best one being the only fully “intact” Roman amphitheatre in the UK. As we were appraising the ruins in great scholarly detail we could hear the rabid parents of an under 12s rugby match next door screaming “kill him”, “smash him”, “get him” and for once it seemed appropriate!

    Caerleon Roman Amphitheatre

    Caerleon Roman Amphitheatre

    On our way home we stopped at Caerwent which apparently has the best preserved Roman Walls in northern Europe. The full circuit of walls that contained the ancient town is still intact and the southern side are the best preserved; still 5 metres high in parts. We had no run-ins with the locals to report here – although an elderly woman with a Labrador did stare at us the whole time we were there and then tailgated us out of town for a few kilometres and overtook us on double yellow lines around a blind corner.

    Caerwent Roman Wall

    Caerwent Roman Wall

    This is totally off topic but we happened to be staying in a really nice Bed and Breakfast and we got talking to some fellow guests. A very interesting couple; Scientists who work for a shady government organisation. Shady only because of my memory – they did tell us who they worked for but I have completely forgotten the name. Anyway they do health and safety research to make sure citizens such as you and I can continue our lives of mass consumption without fear of endangering ourselves by purchasing hazardous or untested products.

    Raglan Castle

    Raglan Castle

    They have been doing a lot of research recently on the effect of mobile phones on our health. They said that mobile phones don't seem to be harmful under normal usage but they have been attempting to raise awareness of the harm they can do in abnormal usage conditions; specifically deep inside buildings or inside aeroplanes. According to our new friends their findings have been suppressed by big business lobbying firms – on behalf of mobile phone manufacturers and telecoms giants. So I thought I would let our 3 readers in on what they told us.

    Mobile phones have a specific absorption rating (SAR) which is a measurement of the quantity of energy from your mobile phone that is absorbed by your body. Under normal circumstances this absorbed energy is very low – most governments have set a level under which manufacturers have to keep their handsets and this is typically 1.6 - 2.0 watts per kilogram. It is thought at this level adverse health effects are negligible.

    Tintern Abbey

    Tintern Abbey

    Tintern Abbey

    Tintern Abbey

    I’m sure you’ve probably read the typical mobile phone usage guidelines which advise you to limit your calls inside buildings, use the phone in open spaces and with a hands free device as often as possible. There is good reason for this advice as most phones automatically increase their power output when the signal is bad, thus increasing the SAR value of the phone which fries your head a little bit more. Within a building it makes sense that the phone would struggle to get a signal through metres of concrete but within an airplane fuselage the physics is slightly different and apparently far more damaging. Our fellow B&B guests claimed that the manufacture of a typical passenger jet causes a direct and dramatic increase in the SAR value of a mobile phone. The construction materials as well as the shape all conspire to concentrate the electromagnetic radiation from the phone inside the aeroplane.

    The passenger aircraft we fly in are usually designed using the Whitcomb area rule. This rule is derived from something called a Sears-Haack body which is an aerodynamic shape with the lowest theoretical drag – imagine a cigar thinly tapered at each end we were told. The passenger aircraft we fly in are also mostly constructed using a “stressed skin” technique and with lightweight high strength alloys (aluminium, aluminium-lithium, titanium, steel and more recently composite materials such as carbon-fibre reinforced polymers). On top of all this some (not many) airplanes have solar and galactic cosmic radiation shielding designed to mitigate the effects of the more intense radiation coming from space experienced at high altitudes. The problem is that this Sears-Haack body shape, the type of construction and the materials that make up the fuselage of a typical passenger jet trap and therefore significantly amplify the radiation emitted by a mobile phone. If the plane has radiation shielding this only exacerbates the problems – the shielding might keep cosmic radiation out but it will also keep mobile phone radiation in!

    Wye River Valley

    Wye River Valley

    Wye River Valley

    I didn’t understand everything our new friends were talking about but it sounded like the frequency and/or amplitude of the emitted radio waves cause a natural resonance on the stressed skin of the air plane. The radiation doesn’t exit the craft not only because of the high strength materials but because of its unique Sears-Haack shape. The radiation is instead refracted and endlessly bounces around within the aircraft causing a much higher effective SAR value.

    The scientists did say there is currently no conclusive public proof stating that mobile phones cause cancer or other health problems but some of their experiments sounded telling. It is easy to measure the heating caused by mobile phones; higher SAR values mean more heating of the tissues closest to the phone. Apparently eyes are especially vulnerable as blood doesn’t flow through them meaning they don’t dissipate heat very well. In the most graphic terms these scientists explained that in their lab experiments rats eyeballs would expand and eventually explode when exposed to high radiation levels inside a scaled down version of a Sears-Haack body!!

    So next time you land somewhere and the air stewards announce please leave your phones off until you enter the terminal building perhaps you should? And if someone near you doesn’t you can tell them their specific absorption rate has just gone way up and that it’s possible their eyeballs will explode!

    Caerwent Roman Wall

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