Heads up: Leon McCarron & Rob Lilwalls walk and kayak from Mongolia to Hong Kong

Posted: Aug 17, 2011 07:47 pm EDT

(Correne Coetzer) In November 2011 Leon McCarron and Rob Lilwall will set off on a 2,500 miles trek in winter from Mongolias Gobi Desert via the Great Wall of China, the Yellow River, the ancient city of Xi An and the limestone peaks of Gulin to Hong Kong by foot and portable kayak.

Leon told ExplorersWeb about the challenges they are facing, how they will carry food and water and where they will get food and water, and about the logistics of the trip.

ExplorersWeb: What challenges will you be facing along the way?

Leon: The major challenges we'll face along the way will be:
Extremely low temperatures, possibly as low as -30°C in the Gobi desert at the start. The Yellow River will freeze over in January, so we must finish that section by Christmas!

Other than weather conditions we'll be very isolated for long stretches, having to carry two weeks of supplies at one point (also in the Gobi.)

The endurance and mental side of it is possible the biggest challenge - keeping going and keeping focused, all while making the TV show.

ExplorersWeb: How heavy will your backpacks be? What will you have in your packs?

Leon: We are hoping they won't be much more than 30kg (without food and water) but we'll have to see when we load them up. We'll have everything we need to survive and travel - tent, bag, clothes, stove, packraft, collapsible paddle, drysuit, camera equipment (lots of this!), tripod, hard drives, maybe a laptop - plus all the small things like maps, torches, tools etc.

ExplorersWeb: Where will you get food and water?

Leon: For the first two weeks we will drag 'Molly Brown' - a trailer that desert explorer Ripley Davenport used to cross the Gobi a couple of years ago. We'll load it with our food and water for two weeks.

After that we hope to resupply in local villages and eat with local people, only carrying food for multiple days when absolutely necessary. Our water will freeze a lot, so we'll have to be careful with that and make sure our stoves are in working order.

ExplorersWeb: What logistics are involved in a trip like this?

Leon: We have to plan our route meticulously - every detail of each section so that we don't end up without food or water. Moving by foot and raft is so slow you can't risk not knowing whats around the corner. So we have to do lots of research about that, and try and speak to locals.

We are also currently seeking sponsors, financial and gear, to help the expedition run to its best possible capacity. The more money we have for the production, the easier it will be to make the best TV show we can, and the better gear we have, the less likely we are to be miserable and cold!

So lots of sponsor hunting, contact making, route planning and plenty besides. We have an expedition advisor, Steven Ballantyne of EPM, who is helping us with visas, permits and the like.

We still have so much to do, plus the small matter of getting fit, so the race is on, but we're absolutely up for it and can't wait to get going

ExplorersWeb: Why is Hong Kong home?

Leon: Hong Kong is now Rob's home - he moved there last year with his wife to work for the charity Viva which we are raising money for on this expedition.

Leon McCarron and Rob Lilwall will travel in winter on foot, with backpacks and a trailer, from the wastelands of the Gobi Desert to the glittering skyline of Hong Kong, walking via the Great Wall of China, and rowing the Yellow River, to the ancient city of Xi An and the limestone peaks of Gulin. They will be shooting a new TV series for National Geographic along the way.

Rob Lilwall is a British born adventurer who cycled 48,000 km during the three years of his Cycling Home From Siberia expedition, which took him from north-east Russia back to his home in London via countries like Papua New Guinea, Tibet, and Afghanistan. He is now the joint Hong Kong National Director of the childrens charity, Viva, for who he will also be raising funds during the expedition.

Leon McCarron is a Northern Irish born adventurer and expedition cameraman currently based in London. He has shot documentary footage on five continents, with expedition experience in jungles, deserts, oceans and sub-zero temperatures. His most recent expedition saw him cycle 14,500 miles from New York to Hong Kong, shooting a documentary about the people on his route and raising funds for UNICEF.


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McCarron: The endurance and mental side of it is possible the biggest challenge - keeping going and keeping focused
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Rob Lilwall
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Leon McCarron
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