Explorers Connect

In Search of Hannibal

Trip Report, Adventure RevolutionWild Night Out
James Dyer has recently returned from a 3 week cycling trip around Europe following Hannibal's route from Cartagena to Turin over the Alps!

James Dyer has recently returned from a 3 week cycling trip around Europe following Hannibal's route from Cartagena to Turin over the Alps!

For years I have been passionate about adventure and expeditioning, designing, leading and working on over 30 international expeditions, as well as working professionally as an outdoor and expedition leader. Since I was a youngster it is the stories of the daring feats of past explorers and adventures that have engaged me and made me dream, I have since been lucky enough to have created a life where I have been able to live quite a few of my dreams. In recent years I have been looking at devising a series of expeditions to following in the footsteps of some of these hero’s, or adventurous souls. To see what they did or just experience their journey. In 2014 Ied an award winning expedition crossing the desert of Southern Jordan with 26 Royal Air Force Air Cadets and staff in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia, and Hannibal’s Journey felt like the right follow up to this. It was a classical journey and one that I could do solo, though I was a novice bike tourer, having been a committed mountain biker for years!!

The cloud rolled in over the small col and dropped down onto the cold snow covering the edges of the glacial lake. The 2400 metre high col marked the border between France and Italy, and was possibly the crossing point used in the 3rd century BC by the Carthaginian General Hannibal and his 30,000 strong army of men, horses, wagons and 37 of his famous war elephants, to descend into Roman territory to take them by surprise.

I had spent the previous 9 hours pushing a converted old mountain bike and about 30kilos of kit in panniers and a ruck sac up the French side of this mountain, along mountain tracks and steep rocky zig zags, in an effort to reach the col before the night fell, so I could camp in the col.

2 weeks previously I stood outside a small tatty hotel in the Spanish city of Carthegena, climbing onto the bike to begin the pedal up the Spanish coast, with sore knees, a sore back side and an aching back I had travelled up the coast, into France and up the river Rhone following the route that is believed to have been the one that Hannibal had taken, I was searching for signs of his passing and to experience the journey that this remarkable military leader and his army had taken.

The sheer effort of the journey, the views of the Mediterranean, the small nuggets of experiences that occurred over the course of the journey and the places I visited, whilst all the time trying to find (not very successfully ) any evidence of Hannibal’s passing will define this journey, experiencing them on my own makes the journey more personal.

A bike tour like this means you spend a lot of time in your own head, and it was here that I realised that I was actually comfortable with my own company and could survive extended periods of time pushing on, motivating myself, planning ahead and keeping going without descending into any forms of madness, though I defiantly had a number of long conversations with a small green fluffy toy elephant called “Jumbo” that my daughter gave to me as company for the journey!

Next up…. I am still trying to decide on the next expedition of what I am beginning to call the “Warrior “series of expeditions, possibly Genghis Khan in Mongolia or The Spartan 300 in Greece! But first up I have to get back to work and lead an expedition to Peru this summer for the British Exploring Society, developing Young people and undertaking some amazing scientific studies.