Tourville sur Mer (equipment update)
I spent a whole day in Le Havre even though it is not very scenic. It is a modern, industrial port city but it is a city and I wanted to sort out some equipment issues and Le Havre was the first place in France where I found a selection of mobile phone providers. I now have a French telephone number, which also gives me some internet access, hopefully enough to keep some sort of instagram flow going.
You can now reach me on: +33(0)645137385
As I have this new SIM card in my mobile, my Swedish number can only receive text messages (it is now in my tablet).
Another priority was to get some more spare inner tubes. I hope not to need them but better safe than sorry.
I left Le Havre this morning, Thursday, and am sitting at a camping site near Tourville sur Mer and thought I would finally force myself to write some sort of equipment update, so here goes..
What can I say, the Mule is working perfectly! Apart from the incredible amount of punctures in England, everything just works. With the new tyres that problem should be rectified and everything else seems to be holding up great. I am moving some things around and trying to pack differently but these are small changes, mainly intended to improve day to day usability. The whole concept of the Mule works great and the only problems occur when I need to get into small rooms, through narrow doors or up winding staircases. That was a problem that I anticipated and as the Mule is more or less modular and can be taken apart and folded together, most obstacles can be overcome, it just takes a little bit longer. My only other worry has been the lack of a brake. The Mule has a parking brake but no brake that can be used on the move, something that might prove a bit of a handful on long downhills. So far, it’s been a non issue but the real test will be crossing the mountains into Spain…
Time will tell.
My Hilleberg tent works great, seems to be standing up to the use and abuse wonderfully and it is comforting to know I always have it with me if needed. I did buy a simpler shelter, essentially just a tarp, in Amsterdam but have not used it much. About the only thing I have done is throw away most of the tent poles that came with it, heavy steel ones. When I want to use it as a shelter, I can tie one end to the Mule, and use just a few sections of the tent poles on the other. Not a problem and a whole lot lighter!
I’m not missing my camp stove. In fact, I found and bought a very small solid fuel stove along with a stainless steel mug to be used in emergencies (read serious coffee abstinence), but it is just taking up space in the Mule. It’s small enough to keep, just in case, but I would probably be just as well off without it. The fact that I haven’t used it proves that!
This is where the biggest changes have occured since the start. I no longer have a “proper” camera or computer with me. Ever since Gothenburg, I have been using only my Sony Xperia Z mobile and a Xperia Z tablet. For me, that is a gigantic change, both in priorities and expectations about the future and how I am going to finance the-walk.
One of the priorities when I first started planning was that I absolutely wanted the highest quality photographic material when I was finished. At one stage I was actively thinking about how I could have a Phase One digital back with me. During the test-walk, I was spoiled by the quality the Leica M9 that I was using delivered and I did not want to settle for less.
But as things have evolved, I have more and more let go of the notion of absolute quality, and embraced a more minimalistic, simple approach. This has not been an easy choice, I have made a living teaching people how to maximise the quality of their photography and to let that go for reasons of ease and simplicity is not done in a moment. I suppose that I have been headed this way all along and should not be surprised, it’s in the nature of minimalism after all.
As I see it at the moment, there are two apects of the-walk that are greatly affected by this decision.
Firstly, I will not be able to generate an income from photography during ( or even after) the-walk in the amount or scale that I was hoping. Eventual income will have to come from selling the story, or stories, and the photography will be nothing more than a complement to the text, audio, video or performance that will be the saleable product. As I have been thinking about pushing myself to produce a more complete package rather than just photos for quite a while, this might not be so bad.
Secondly, I really need to experiment with all the new forms and methods of sharing and using photos in this very connected and immediate world. Used to be that you persued a project, came home, sorted, produced and worked with your material, to finally show the result when it was finished. But times change and there are endless new possibilities to share and show what is happening, as it happens. To let your audience become more than just an audience and participate in your project, more or less live. The possibilities are evolving all the time and are both challenging and intriguing. I am not sure where this is leading me, but that’s part of the fun!
The limitations of a mobile phone, even a high quality one like my Xperia Z, are an interesting challenge. How to overcome the lack of focal length variability, lack of settings and dynamic range? Then how to show and share the results in a quick, safe and informative way? These are questions that are foremost on my mind at the moment and that I hope to solve. My photography has been a bit limited lately because I have been thinking more than photographing, but that will hopefully change as I discover the method and approach I wish to use. Until then, expect a fair bit of experimenting…
What can I say, my Houdini clothing is like the Mule and my Hilleberg tent. It works! An important part of being minimalistic is choosing the equipment you use with care. As you have a limited amount of “stuff”, what there is has to work and be of high quality. The only problem I have had is with the wool boxers, they aren’t as durable as they should be, everything else is better than great.
I get a lot of comments about my shoes (or lack thereof). It usually goes like this:
“Are you really walking to Sydney?”
“Yes, that’s the plan at least.”
“That’s a long way. How long are you planing for it to take?”
“Yeah, it’s pretty far. It will probably take me 2 to 3 years.”
“Wow, you must have really good shoes!”
This is when I show them my flip-flops!
At the moment I have 4 different pairs of flip-flops, one pair of sandals and a pair of Fivefingers I am saving for colder weather. All the flip-flops are starting to wear and I have more or less been constantly looking out for new pairs that are minimalistic (thin sole, minimal or no support) as they usualy take a few days to get used to. They all chafe different parts of the foot and one needs to start of gently. A 40 km day straight off is a guarantee of blisters. Several pair are modified to stay on the foot better, more lika a sandal.
My sandals are a pair of Tevas with a very thin sole that I bought in Copenhagen. They have been great apart from one thing, the straps are some sort of plastic and invariably chafe my toes with their sharp edges. In the end, I took a knife to them, cut of the plastic straps and replaced them with tent rope. Problem solved, they are now usable, barefoot, without causing me any blisters. But even they are starting to get worn.
To get past the problem of having to find new flip-flops as the old ones wear out, and get something that I can depend on for a longer time, I finally bit the bullit and ordered some Xeroshoes. These used to be called invisible-shoes and are a huarache inspired minimalistic sandal. I ordered two pairs, one with a 4 mm and one with a 6 mm sole. As I ordered online, they will be sent to my sister in Sweden and then I will have to find a way to get them to me.
The Xeroshoes have a 5000 mile guarantee, something I will be putting to the test, and should last me a large part of the rest of the-walk.
The plan is to have just 3 pairs of shoes. The 2 pair of sandals and one pair of proper shoes to be used in cold weather or when sandals just aren’t appropriate.
After all, less is more!
If you would like to comment or suggest something concerning my equipment (or ask a question), please do so either via e-mail or on the Facebook page. I will post a shot of my flip-flop collection there that can be used as a place to post equipment discussions.