This is the first article in a series of three about a great contender to become the new adventure hub of the world, Killarney, located in the south western part of this immensely green island. The first one regards the reason for my visit, the 1st Adventure Film Festival of this quaint little town! The second about this area as a tourism spot to choose and the third about the definition of what is exploration and who has the right to call him or herself an explorer. And the issue, what is an unsupported journey.
Gee, what a busy week! Early Tuesday morning last week I flew to Stockholm and the Travellers Club and their monthly black tie meeting. The speaker of the day was Elisabeth Tarras-Wahlberg, who spent a year working for the Emir of Qatar -Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani- to teach him and the Qatari royals how to be European Royals. She used to be the right hand of the Swedish King. Anyway, I always enjoy these meetings and I was primarily there to try to hook the club up to a guided tour to Patagonia and the Eastern Island next year. I flew back to Malmö after the meeting and came back at 1 in the morning. I got up two hours later with the rest of the family to catch an early flight out of Copenhagen for Dublin and the 1st Killarney Adventure Film Festival. Once in Dublin, we took a rental and drove 5 hours across the island to possibly the new adventure hub of the world – Killarney and its wild and beautiful surroundings.
The organizers of the Festival, the Explore Foundation run by Tim Lavery and Ripley Davenport, set us up at the 5 star Killarney Park Inn Hotel and Pamela and myself had a feeling this would become a festival that we never would forget! I have been to quite a few festivals, annual dinners all over the world and such fancy things -which I like- and I just wondered how this one would differ. It was a festival like no other I have been too!
One thing I really like with the Irish is how genuinely helpful, down to earth and extremely relaxed they are. (So relaxed in many ways that the Jamaicans would be jealous!) And Tim especially, who was running the first film festival. Ripley, his partner, arrived to Ireland at the same time as us, with all of his family of 4, to set up a new life on the island. They have left Denmark until the end of eternity. They have lived there the last 10 years, felt it was time to move to something more lively and challenging, so Ripley have set up a foundation together with the local wizard and hard man, Tim Lavery, for something very much needed in the exploration scene. Something genuine. Like Tim Lavery himself.
“I had an offer from a potential sponsor” , Tim told me, “if I brought a really big name over from Britain, one sponsor would underwrite the whole Festival, but after talking to this fella they wanted, a polar explorer from Britain, I realized that it was best for everyone involved he didn´t show up. He wanted big money to come and didn´t care who was there, what it was about or anything. Therefore, we decided not to invite climbers or south pole and north pole skiers, since they in most ways, have nothing to do with exploration, but is mainly adventures to fulfill personal dreams, but not for the good of the rest of the world.”
Tim told me this the next morning before I had a lecture at a local school for 13-14 years olds. I enjoyed it thoroughly and nothing makes me happier than when these people of the future have a lot of questions at the end and seem to enjoy every second of the talk, which is intended to inspire and is part of the Explore Foundation idea.
After the lecture we went off to meet the mayor of Killarney Cllr. Donal Grady. Therefore, the group who went to the Mayor was made up of two young, ambitious and hungry names in the adventure world, photographer and camel herder Jeremy Curl and the funny Belgian adventurer Louis Phillipe Loncke, plus the young, very gifted and very cool film maker Brian Leitten, my sponsor and good friend Steve Dutton from Termo, who signed up with Tim as a supplier and Ripley Davenport as an athlete. And me, who will never ski to any of the poles or climb Everest and call it an Expedition. I would call all three of them a holiday adventure just to possibly fulfill a personal ambition. Tim in his very courteous way lead us all to the mayors office. It turns out the the local government wasn´t only backing the Film Festival in every way, but they were as down to earth and nice to deal with as the rest of the adventurous one´s in the office!
My wife Pamela, the daughter Eva and me went over to visit Ripley Davenport and his family at their new home after lunch. I have been communicating with the Davenports since Ripleys great Mongolian Journey and his wife Laura wrote about the life as a wife of an explorer and I have admired them a lot. Keeping a family together isn´t easy for an explorer, but they have made it with their two great kids. Together, during possibly some of the worst times in the history of Ireland, due to their economical problems, the Davenports decide to move here and start a new life. That takes a lot of guts and of course they will succeed. It also turns out that they´re all even better humans than I had expected. What a fantastic family! Ripley feels like a half brother to me.
And what happened at the Film Festival?
Well, it was so relaxed I didn´t really know what was happening until the final evening, Saturday, when there were more explorers and adventurers than locals at the extremely relaxed award ceremony. Tim, this great and extremely kind and generous Irish fella, basically stood in the doorway and exit of the cinema and announced without too much detail and explanations that Ed Staffords film from his amazing Amazon walk had won in competition with about 200 other films. I had left my three films, but have no idea what happened, except since they were in a foreign tongue with no translations, it couldn´t be understood by the jury. Which was made up of Tim and Ripley.
Whilst the rest of this great and very enjoyable and funny lot of people went off to a bar with Irish music, we left for Dublin airport at 2.30 morning. I had saved 20 dollars by booking an early flight.
I am very happy to have been part of the 1st Killarney Adventure Festival!
© Copyright 2013 Explorer Mikael Strandberg | Photos and texts Copyright Explorer Mikael Strandberg