Thanks to SOL Laptops for supporting our next West Africa photography adventure: ‘When you need to share your adventure, just “plug” into the sun!’

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Image courtesy of the SOL Laptop website

Sometimes there is a need to have a techie blog post – particularly when it comes to the SOL Laptop! Read on…

On both our River Gambia Expedition and A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush expedition, powering our gear – particularly our laptops, essential for uploading Florios images and updating the blog – has always been a big hurdle to overcome and, despite having extensively researched before purchasing the latest gadgets using solar power technology, on both expeditions we ended up purchasing a car battery locally to charge our gear effectively and fully! Therefore, we are constantly on the look out for solar power technology that does in fact do exactly as it says it will do on the box. So, imagine our delight when we came across a recent review on the G-Layer blog – the Australian sister company to Yellowbrick, UK, who sponsored our recent River Gambia journey with the YB3 tracking device:

‘Cutting-edge sustainable technology is what we’re all about here at the G-Layer, and we’re always on the lookout for new exciting developments, so when we discovered the SOL solar laptop we were overwhelmed by the possibilities this tough little computer offers to our sun-drenched country!

The 10-hour laptop’s battery  is charged by a built-in solar panel (detachable).

SOL can be connected to the internet using the 4G network or an optional satellite module, opening up the world wide web to communities, schools and workers all over Australia. This revolutionary product will also feature a GPS, HD graphics and an integrated webcam. Using the latest in nanotechnology construction, and priced at a sum nearly anyone can afford, we believe this product will revolutionise life in the outback, which is why we had to bring it to our customers at the first opportunity!’ G Layer

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Image courtesy of the SOL Laptop website

And we were thrilled beyond belief when, after submitting to Sol Laptops, a Canadian based company, about our next West Africa venture, we won a place in their Expedition Sol‘ …choice of ‘professionals, researchers, adventurers and unique individuals‘ to get our very own SOL Laptop when it is officially launched later in the year!

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Expedition Sol – meet the explorers (click here or on image to view page). Image © Jason Florio , with Helen Jones-Florio and the village chief of Tuba Dabbo, The Gambia, W Africa, 2009

And, as for our next West Africa venture? You’ll just have to stay tuned until we are ready to officially announce our plans! However, again, it will most definitely involve lots of great photography – and this time, we hope, not just from Florio – and neither should we have any of this nonsense…

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…Helen: “I haven’t got enough power – again!” Image © Jason Florio – Sila Kounda, Senegal. Camping on the roof of the village chiefs compound, 2012

Why? Because, we’ll have ‘The world’s first truly solar-powered laptop’. It never needs to be plugged in!’.

Immense thanks to the team at SOL Laptops (WeWi Corp)  for inviting us on board.

More news soon, about what we are planning next.

The Florios (H & Flo)

Quick update from Tambacunda, Senegal – River Gambia Expedition

Florio, YellowBrick and Concern Universal – on route to Tambacunda, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

Just a very, very quick update as we’ve had a super long day – up since 4.30am and now in Tambacunda, Senegal, on route to Kedougou, and nearer to the source of the River Gambia. But, we just wanted to remind you that you can follow our trail on our YellowBrick blog – see where we are at, at all times, should you so desire. I know my mum has been following our progress today (thanks mum!) – and she can now go to bed because we have switched it off for the night! Huge thanks again to YellowBrick Tracking for the loan of the trusty device – the YB3.

And, last but not least, a BIG thank you to Concern Universal for the trade: Florio’s services as a photographer for a vehicle and driver – to bring us all the way down to Tambacunda, Senegal – and the smoothest border crossing yet, from Gambia, with all our gear too! Our CU driver, Nicolas Gomez is the king of speedy (but extremely safe) driving, over all kinds of terrain today.

Spot the Florio! Fleuve Gambie (River Gambia), Gouloumbou, Senegal, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio – from this bridge (which we weren’t supposed to take photos of – it’s a military check point) we had a great view of the section of the river we’ll be coming back down. In a word (or two), its wide and moving pretty fast!

River Gambia Expedition is on the road – and soon to be in the Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea – at long bloody last!!

Much more to come soon – when the connection is faster and I can get some of Florio’s images up here.

Please drop by again

The Florios (H & Flo)

Follow our tracks – YB3 Blog

Update: Yellowbrick™ ‘YB3′ Tracking Device training with Nick Farrell…followed by lunch by the Swanwick Marina with Matt Smith (The Gambia Experience)

    'YB3' - Yellowbrick Tracking Device. Image © Jason Florio

‘YB3′- Our Yellowbrick Tracking Device. Image © Jason Florio

Update: 6th October 2012

We’re in the process of setting up the our YBlog – where you can go and see the tracking map of where we’ll be on our River Gambia Expedition. We’ll be pinging our location on a very regular basis, down in West Africa, thanks to the iridium technology that Yellowbrick Tracking Devices use

‘The Science bit…

The Iridium constellation has more satellites than any other commercial constellation. The 66 Iridium satellites are in a near-polar orbit at an altitude of 485 miles (780 km). They fly in formation in six orbital planes, each comprising 11 satellites, evenly spaced around the planet. Each Iridium satellite completely circles the Earth once every 100 minutes, traveling at 16,832 miles per hour, traveling from horizon to horizon across the sky in about ten minutes.’

Here’s the link to our YBlog – in the early stages, but we’ll be tracking our journey as soon as we get on the way, from the 16th October:

Yellowbrick 'YB3' Tracking Device - follow our (almost) every move on the expedition

Tracking coming soon – but please check out the blog in the meantime

Wednesday 12th September

We headed out of Surrey early this morning for the drive down to Southampton, to meet with Nick Farrell from Yellowbrick Tracking Devices. After frustratingly slow progress, in the rush hour traffic to get to the M3, we eventually made it down there with still enough time to spare to have breakfast at the huge Swanwick Marina in Old Burlesdon, on the Hamble Estuary – the rural and extremely photogenic village, where Nick lives, just outside of Southampton itself,



As we approached the gate to Nick’s cottage, we were greeted by ‘Charlie’ – his large, affable and incredibly bouncy, Labradoodle. After introductions, and mugs of tea made, we settled down to get the low down on the YB3 Tracking Device that Nick and the guys at Yellowbrick have very kindly sponsored us with, for our River Gambia Expedition.

Nick Farrell - Yellowbrick Tracking

Nick Farrell – Yellowbrick Tracking

And, as stated on the website, the YB3 most certainly ‘packs a punch’. We can do all manner of things with this small, extremely lightweight (just over 300grams), robust, waterproof, global tracking device:


  • 4-button keypad plus specific ‘alert’ button
  • Bright OLED screen for information display
  • Full 2-way communication system
  • Over-the-air reconfiguration of key parameters
  • USB connection for charging and for data transfer
  • Truly Global Operation, using the Iridium satellite network
  • Long battery life (over 2000 transmissions on a single charge)

We even get our very own Yellowbrick blog, which will be linked to ours, so that anyone who wants to can follow us can see where we are, through tracking wey-points on our route map, uploaded from the YB3 on a regular basis (to as little or often as we want to set this feature) – along with any images we choose to upload too – as we make our way over 1000kms, via canoeing on the River Gambia and trekking, through the Highlands of Guinea, Niokolo National Park, Senegal and The Republic of The Gambia, West Africa.

Example of one of the rowing teams route maps who Yellowbrick also sponsor

Example of one of the rowing teams route maps who Yellowbrick also sponsor

We can text message; tweet; update the blog; and, the feature that we hope we don’t ever have to press on the expedition is the red ‘Alert Button’. Before we leave, we will preset this feature with email addresses and phone numbers of people (family/friends) we choose to be contacted in the event of an emergency – with a capitalised message: ‘COME AND GET US!’!!

The 'Alert Button'

The ‘Alert Button’

After Nick’s very eloquent and precise instructions on using the YB3 (video footage coming soon), we walked the short distance, up the hill, towards the old part of the village to meet Matt Smith – the smart and articulate wordsman of The Gambia Blog. Matt works for The Gambia Experience – the company who have specialised in travel to West Africa for over 25 years and who have very kindly sponsored our return flights down to The Gambia.

Matt, Jenny Adams (Gambia Experience’s PR guru) and the guys have always been a big support in what we’ve been doing over the years. In fact, The Gambia Experience sponsored our flights in 2009 for our first West Africa expedition: ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey’.

Matt Smith at The Jolly Sailor, Old Burlesdon

It was a pleasure to take some time to sit and converse with Matt – engaged and engaging conversation abounded – over a spot of lunch at The Jolly Sailor. Between him and Jenny, they have helped to spur us on with ideas, advice and continuous press coverage for our adventures over the last few years – which is always very much appreciated.

You don’t see many of these in downtown Manhattan. Image © Helen Jones-Florio

Reluctantly, bidding farewell to Matt (I think all three of us wished it was Friday afternoon – and not a mid-week ‘school day’ – when we could happily have carried on yakking over a couple of pints), we made our way back to Surrey, via Southampton and ‘Blacks’, where we managed to tick off a couple of Karrimor sleeping bags from our camping equipment list – for our Gambian team mates – in the very-end-of-season-sale.

Another productive day, indeed. Big thanks to Nick Farrell for the invaluable YB3 training – and, of course, for the device for our forthcoming River Gambia Expedition. I think we’ll be spending this weekend setting up the Yellowbrick blog and testing out tracking co-ordinates on the Wey Navigation (or even on The Thames – if our sponsored Crewsaver Buoyancy Aids arrive today!).

More updates coming soon…particularly one involving our actual leaving date for West Africa. Bring it on!

The Florios (H & Flo)

P.S. Watch Flo on Vimeo, talking all things River Gambia Expedition and how you can get involved and receive one of his limited edition fine art photography prints, from a series of images he will take on our forthcoming expedition, in ‘An Exchange’

Please click on the image to view

Product sponsors and backers – on board so far, for the River Gambia Expedition 2012. Thank you to everyone!

We have some amazing product sponsors on board so far…thank you so much to every one of them! We have a few more in the pipeline too…tbc…watch this space.

We also have ‘An Exchange’ for those individuals who would like to own one of River Gambia Expedition 2012 co-leader, Jason Florio’s, limited edition fine art photography prints which he will take whilst we are in West Africa. Please click on the image below to watch Jason reveal all, on Vimeo, about how to jump on board too:

One of Jason’s fine art photography prints, available in ‘an exchange’ from the last expedition ‘Alkalo (chief) Masanneh Cham, Chamen Sosseh The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio

Yellowbrick™ Tracking devices are on board for sponsorship with their ‘YB3′!

We just received confirmation from Yellowbrick™ that they will be sponsoring the River Gambia Expedition 2012 with a YB3 Tracking Device – ‘Yellowbrick3 has been designed to withstand the harshest of environments. And with our heritage in offshore racing, you can be sure that we’re not just saying that…!’

The YB3 will allow us to get GPS co-ordinates and transmit our position back to the blog, ‘from anywhere on earth‘. Ensuring that we have ‘truly global coverage. Absolutely no dead spots.’ Simply put, you can follow us on the whole journey up the River Gambia!


Yellowbrick3™ Tracking Device

We can even Twitter, send emails and text -wherever we are on our journey. So, there will be no escape from our adventures – we’ll be transmitting our position up to four times a day to where you can follow us on a web based map.

Seriously though, if we get into any sticky situations, we will be able to send an SOS signal, with our co-ordinates.

Therefore, we’re very happy and thankful to be sponsored by Yellowbrick™


The Florios – Jason & Helen

Please click on the image below to watch Jason Florio as he explains how you can own one of his fine art photography prints, from a series of images he will take whilst on the River Gambia Expedition 2012: