About me

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Hi, I’m Conrad Birch an experienced traveller, photographer and writer. And for the past 30 years, I’ve explored the world using numerous means of transportation. Driving classic cars to Japan and China, using shanks pony in the Himalaya, riding a motorbike across the India and Australian outback and taking the train all the way to Timbuktu. 

I do it because I like off-beat experiences as I search for the authentic side of our world. That said, I also like a good night’s sleep. I don’t mind a tent but you won’t find me jumping into crocodile infested rivers or spending weeks in a rainforest or trying to live at the extremities of the natural world. I like to travel for the people, the places and the experiences. Some say I’m a romantic explorer. Well, I think that’s quite a nice person to be.

So, what’s next?

After so many journeys exploring, writing and photographing the world, it’s now time to slowwww down the journey, bring out the walking boots and travel at the lazy speed God intended. And walk up the east coast of India with 3 donkeys.

Why? Because travel is about more than getting from A to be B. Travel is about understanding mankind in all his funny and peculiar ways. All those ways that at a distance make us seem so different, but up close make us seem very similar.

My travels so far have shown me that at heart we all have the same desires and expectations, whether than be from work, family, friends, lovers, relationships, entertainment, hopes or values. We are kind and understanding manuals, only disrupted by the arrogant and ambitious few. Maybe slowwww travel, not in a car, on a motorbike or inside a plane, will enable me to better interact with the place I’m in, and the people that live there. I’m hoping it will let me get stuck between, or better away from, the tourist monuments so I can enter the warmth of the country. Travelling slowwwwly maybe the world will come to me, rather than me rushing around the world.

Would you agree? Please be free to think otherwise. But to see a city properly it has to be better to walk than to travel by taxi. Walking enables authentic experiences; the smells, the taste of the air, the sounds of lovers and then the greedy haggling of street vendors. By walking I believe the pride and the gluttony of the city, country or even continent become tangible. Trains, planes and automobiles are man made cocoons, inside which one travels often with no concept of what is outside the tin can. Once you get out of this comfort zone and walk, chat and laugh with the locals you realise that they will willingly walk, chat and laugh with you. By walking to the off-beat corners and little known areas along my route I hope I’ll feel like I really am fully experiencing a place in its truest form.

So having travelled by all of mans mad mechanical speed machines, rushing from here to there to see this and quickly see that, it’s time to rush no more; to appreciate less of mans monuments and identify more with mans own passions. Bashu, Wordsworth, Dickens, Leigh-Fermor, or even Chatwin, these were walkers who walked to philosophize and to simply get lost in thought. To become like that…how wonderful would that be! Well that is the idea, but an idea is only the inspiration to fire questions, and one question I asked myself is do I want to carry the burden of my needs? No. So for the first of the great treks I am intending to reach out and create a friendship with the animals who willingly shared a stable with the Son of mankind. Three donkeys, Nina, Zappa and Ziggy; companions to create the romance of the journey, carry my needs and chit and chat with a romantic explorer along the pathways of India.

Some of my past highlights.

I first travelled to India in 1980 and since then have returned most years to experience this unexplainable country. After travelling across India on all forms of transport, from trains, buses, to rickshaws I wanted to see inside India’s heartland, ok I admit by some form of offbeat travel. So in 1998 I shipped my 1970 MGB open sports car to Mumbai and drove across this rugged landscape to Chennai. This was the catalyst for the first classic car drive into India and the last great motoring event of the 20th Century; The Jewel of India.

In the past 16 years I have run 12 such events all over the world, enabling classic car enthusiasts to travel with their cars and drive in exotic locations.

Three of my Indian car adventures are featured in a new book by avid classic car collector, His Highness Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar, the Maharana of Udaipur.

Other adventures include being robbed on the train on the way to Timbuktu way back in 1881. Bandits holding me up at gun point in India, more recent. Never mind the time I broke down in snow crossing a high pass in the Andes or travelling on the Karakoram in Taliban country. Despite all the misadventures, I love the adventure and accept that a lot of the best passions and experiences in life are scary. Twice I have ridden a motor bike off road across India. Many years ago, young and foolish, I rode a motor bike across the Australian desert which put me hospital for a week. I lacked the experience, and everyone said I was mad and now I admit they were right all along!

I have driven across southern Iran with an armed guard in the MG B and then against all advice drove further into the Baluchistan Desert. Run the last ever river journey down the Zambezi before the dam arrived to block the river. At the time I did not have a clue what I was doing, still don’t, just got a boat and went; even the locals said I was mad. I can tell you I was scared seeing the rapids coming up fast. Worst part was bivouaking up on the river bank with the crocodiles. That scared me.

Part of the appeal of travel is to do something you did not think you could do, to go outside your comfort zone. When in Afghanistan my friends and family never expected to see me again. I was scared when I crossed over thinking “man I am just a fool”.

In 2008 I again drove my 1970 MG B from London to India and then onto Japan for a summer of driving the great unknown mountainous interior.

In 2010 I drove my 1967 Alfa Romeo Duetto into Patagonia and in 2011 the Land Rover for 50 days from Istanbul to Calcutta.

Last year I rode the Trans Mongolian and the narrow gauge Sheopur railway in central India. Visited the Union carbide factory in Bhopal as guest of the Bhopal Medical Appeal, Sambhavna Trust and the Chingari Trust and finished the year travelling to the Great Game cities of Uzbekistan Central Asia.

This year 2015, I started by year ridding the narrow gauge Shakuntala Express near Nagpur. Recently back form a journey riding the Funky Bus “Ride to the Sunny South” www.ROARR.me from Mumbai to Kozhikode on the west coast of India.

Plans for Ethiopia in June, travel onto the Kingdom of Cush and Meroe in Sudan. Latter on during the year ride the Rocket ferry in Bangladesh after a summer driving the Alfa Duetto across Spain and Portugal and finishing in December leading a 4 x 4 expedition across the sands and mountains of Oman.

Next 2016 year is getting busy with the Alpaca Classic Car Rally from Cartagena Colombia across Ecuador onto Lima Peru in May and June. A number of other journeys in the pipe line, Grand Trunk Road and walking the Great Arc of India from the tip at Kanyakumari to the Himalaya.

Busy time, exciting times, always make sure they are fascinating times.