Thomas Ivor and I had the privilege of a night out at the Royal Geographical Society one Wednesday. It began with a tweet about free tickets and ended with a Twitter exchange with the Georgian ambassador!
Warm welcome from #Georgia to dear Thomas @thomas_ivor to explore Transcaucasian Trial! @theTCTrail @RGS_IBG— Tamar Beruchashvili (@tberuch) February 3, 2017
Tom Allen is a Fellow of the RGS, a bike tourist and adventurer of some repute and will be no stranger to many of our readers. I've enjoyed reading and watching the film of his round the world bike ride before now. If you've not watched 'Janapar', you must!
Tom happened to tweet that there were free tickets on offer for a lecture about his most recent project, the Transcaucasian Trail, supported by the Land Rover bursary - and cut a long story short, we knew that Thomas Ivor had a difficult morning in prospect and was due something to look forward to.
Now, you have to be 14 to be a young member of the RGS, so this was an opportunity too good to pass up - and the subject matter was fascinating.
"What will it be like?" asked Thomas Ivor.
"Leather and wood, I reckon", said I.
I wasn't wrong, but oh, the fold-out note-taking desks in the seats were a thing of joy to a little boy!
The project is an exciting one - the lecture was streamed and I will let it speak for itself! It's a part of the world so many of us in Britain know so little about, and both the landscape and the people look great. Tom explained, answering a question from Thomas Ivor, that he very much hopes to develop a version of the trail which can be tackled on two wheels.
This sort of stuff doesn't make it onto the curriculum in many state primary schools, in all fairness, and the free tickets allowed a trip to London to participate, without busting the budget. A surprising number of folk greeted us afterwards having seen Thomas Ivor at Yestival, the Cycle Touring Festival and elsewhere, and we had some super conversations which further inspired the lad. It was a real credit to such an august society, amongst so many high achievers, the way many of them went out of their way to offer their encouragement and interest to a little boy who aspires to follow them. We were even privileged to speak with the President of the RGS!
The final act of the night was our departure through the old front entrance to the RGS, passing the boards honouring medal winners. We paused to point out names we knew. I found Michael Palin, Neil Armstrong, Scott and Shackleton. Thomas Ivor (in fairness, at nearer his own height!) found Thesiger - a third nod of the night to the 'Empty Quarter' having bumped into Leon McCarron and spent time viewing Mark Evans' exhibition in the foyer.
Who knows where we might leave those doors bound for, some day in the future? That's an exciting prospect!
Here's the lecture we enjoyed, and I hope you do, too. Be sure to visit the Transcaucasian Trail website - especially if you are interested in volunteering your skills or resources to support the creation of an exciting new corner of the world to go exploring. We'd like to thank Tom Allen and his team, the RGS and Land Rover for their hard word on the trail, and a great night out.