Posts Tagged ‘India’

Today was the first day of my annual leave. Up to now it’s just been weekend and work-life balance days. Work- life balance feels so removed from where I am, sitting in a roadside store in the remote Himalayan village of Dubling, camping in the owner’s yard. I’m back on the road again.

Today had lots of different elements. Morning rain. An interesting discussion while watching the rain. Technical difficulties. Bad road surface but spectacular views. An unexpected camping experience in Dubling.

My hotel guest mate goes around to schools and puts on an educational performance. An interesting life. He had lots of tips for the road forward.

I’ll cut to the chase, and show some photos from this beautiful road.

The hotel that I was expecting in Dubling wasn’t there. I’d deliberately avoided the village of Pooh to stay in Dubling near the start of tomorrow’s big climb.

The kind shop owner let me pitch my tent in his yard. No longer credit card touring – just lots of human to human contacts.

I asked if there was somewhere to get dinner, and I was told that would be sorted out. A sequence of misunderstandings saw me go to bed when they shut up shop, and eat some biscuits in my tent. Then, when I was almost asleep I was invited to dinner. My hindi is, indeed, not brilliant. The evening was the perfect example of having to go with the flow, and see where out leads you.

I sat on the balcony, breathing in the view of the massive mountains on the opposite side of the valley. In front was the temple village of Kalpa. Slowly, slowly, the shadows of the mountains behind crept up the mountains in front until it faded to darkness.

The weather changed with a thunderstorm at 2am last night. It was cloudy and beautiful weather for climbing up the valley today.

The narrow road was cut out of a vertical cliff in parts. In others it dropped down to run just above the river.

There were lots of hydro electricity plants and lots of military garrisons. Regularly I was passed by one military truck after the next. You can tell this is near the disputed border with China.

The highlight was the climb from the valley to the capital of the district – Reckong Peo, and then up to the temple village of Kalpa. It was a bit of a slog though. Kalpa is over 1000m above the river.

I’m all kitted out for a forey tomorrow across the inner line – the area near the Chinese border.

‘And you switch it on for hot water.’
The hotel manager dangled the electric wire in the bucket of water, plugged the end into the power socket, and flicked the switch. There was a flash from the bucket in the dim, concrete floored room as the manager smiled, the fan creaking rhythmically in the background.

My spare battery sat happily on top of the fan control unit, the plug made taught in the socket with a rubber band. My clothes were sprawled out on the bed. I had decided not to climb the 700m up the side of the valley to the temple. I was hot and tired and I could feel the cramp coming on in my leg. Instead of the climb, I decided on an early night and an early start to bring myself to cooler climes.

I’m glad I did. I had a nice experience watching the shoemaker fixing up the crack in my sandals, and checked out the hot springs. I also had brief success eeking out a few WhatsApp messages at the cyber café.

After a breakfast at the happy chef’s restaurant from last night, I had a wonderful decent into the valley – nearly 2000m along a good quality road, not so steep to necessitate braking, with beautiful views.

I even met some other cyclists – Jessica and Thomas from NZ who have just finished the Karokorum Highway.

The valley was beautiful, and the road followed it, slowly rising higher and higher above the brown rushing water.

The road continues upward tomorrow – bringing me closer to the Spiti Valley. Yay!

Mountains, oceans, deserts and impenetrable jungles have shaped the flow of mankind throughout history. I get a shiver down my spine when I cross these natural barriers and pass from one world to the next, and experience people and cultures so different from my own. I am cycling across the massive Eurasian continent – a land-mass where the majority of humanity lives. Over Christmas and New Year I was in Bangkok and North-east India – two vastly different places. Another taste of the diversity of the planet. Man, this trip is cool!

Looking out over the plains of Bangladesh

Looking out over the plains of Bangladesh

The Revenge of Geography by Robert Kaplan explains the history of mankind through the lens of geography. The vast deserts of western China. The Himalayas, Karakorum and Hindu Kush mountains. They separate cultures so different – India, China, Europe. The heartland of Eurasia – Iran, the stans and western China – have been the crossroads where civilizations meet and create a common intricate history.

Cycling along, I see and hear words from languages and lands far away. I was amazed hearing Turkish words deep into the stans. And one day I stopped in amazement when the penny dropped, and realised the word I had been seeing in Cyrillic script in Kyrgyzstan all this time in shop windows was the Hindi word Dukan. This place is the melting-pot of civilization, and you can feel it everywhere.

In 2015 I cycled through China and experienced the land deeply. At Christmas time, I left my bike in Bangkok, and flew to India – another major culture on the Eurasian landmass. I was not very far from where I had been in China – just the other side of the tallest mountains in the world. The Himalayas shield these countries from each other and the cultures are so different.

For me Bollywood music and films transport me instantly back to India. Such a happy, iconic music with surreal love scenes and frivolity. Driving back from the airport with Bollywood filling my ears, we saw people picnicking and dancing on the banks of the Bramaputra River – the lifeblood of so many millions of people.

Dill wale

Dill wale

India is so very different to China, and so very different from south-east Asia, and so very different from the west. Motor and cycle-rickshaws abound, the traffic is chaotic spewing out poisonous fumes that create the thick cloud of pollution hanging over the city. The markets, the shops, the buildings are all so.. Indian. The haggling, buying and even temple donations is particularly fierce – especially as a foreigner with a (perceived) endless wallet. Although very different, India also feels familiar – Australia shares its Commonwealth roots, and with my Indian friends of similar age, we could reminisce about the cricket stars of years long gone.

I gave a presentation to some local kids about the bike trip and sustainability for Green Pedals. Global warming could affect these children so much in their lifetimes (and also in my lifetime) as the glaciers feeding the Bramaputra dry up. These kids got it, and these kids were motivated. I love talking to kids and seeing the light in their eyes. The excitement in a new life just starting.

The kids in Guwahati

The kids in Guwahati

The Assam Tribune

The Assam Tribune

Newspaper article

Newspaper article

Thank you my good friends Autri and Jodi, and Autri’s wonderful Indian family for your amazing hospitality. I saw some beautiful parts of north-east India in Assam and the scenic hills of Meghalaya – the last burst of mountains before the steep drop to the endless river delta plains of Bangladesh. And thank you to Autri’s mother Anuradha for your hospitality and passion to make India and the world a better place.

Little shops

Little shops



In the hammock

In the hammock

Autri's lovely mother

Autri’s lovely mother

I didn’t visit the temples. I didn’t go to Kao San Road. Bangkok was eating, relaxing and seeing friends – heaven after a lot of cycling. Oh – and lots of thai massages.

Bangkok feels like the antithesis of Iran and central Asia. It was great to be, for example, served by a transvestite in the major shopping complex food court. That would not be possible anywhere else in the world (outside of gay areas). In some way, people are free, and in others, the political turmoil is sad for the lovely people of this beautiful country.

Me, Jay and Mark

Me, Jay and Mark

Tomorrow I am continuing my trip in a new year – down one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. I am so excited to be cycling along beautiful palm lined beaches and turquoise blue water – landscapes so foreign to the ones at home (wherever that home may be).

Why plan in such detail? And so far ahead? Well, that’s my ordered side. Things need to be arranged. Leave nothing to chance. And that is exactly what a trip like this can never be like.. That also makes it exciting. Still, planning can help make broad global decisions that will affect the whole trip. And it is also a lot of fun!

In September 2014 I will be leaving Eindhoven, the Netherlands, to cycle to Adelaide, Australia, where I was born. After cycling through Europe in 2014, the second stage of my trip starts in Istanbul in Turkey around March 2015, and sees me end somewhere in South-East Asia. There are lots of options, and lots of decisions to make. Here is the current planned route.

World Cycle Trip 2015: Route Through Asia

World Cycle Trip 2015: Route Through Asia

At first I was a bit irritated when I discovered that, perhaps, my timing was a bit skew. I have planned too much time. Leaving Istanbul in February/March to get to Tajikistan on June 1 where I would meet up with my cycling friend Chris. But, hey, this is a cycle trip of a lifetime. No stress. No hectic agenda. I am going to take my time and see places not many people have the privilege to see. I am going to take detours. This route is the basis. I am now collecting ideas for detours – interesting places to see and things to do!

Here are the countries I will be cycling through with some thoughts on my route through them.

In Turkey I might stick to the Black Sea coast and enter into Georgia, Armenia, and possibly Azerbijan. But in the correct order. The relationships between the countries in the Caucus are complex, and in researching the trip I am discovering things I never knew existed – self proclaimed countries recognised by no-one except themselves – Abkhazia and Nagorna-Karabagh.

In Iran I may head south through Isfahan and Shiraz as recommended by Bernadette Speet. The major decisions that affect the global route take place in China. Strict laws in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), expensive (compulsory) tours that need to be taken there, roads blocked for tourists, length of Chinese visas, timing of wet and hot season in Bangladesh, lack of roads leading to massive detours on the Tibetan Plateau, the impossibility of crossing Myanmar. All these affect my route through China, and, inevitably, what the whole trip looks like. I would like to have a connected route entirely covered by bike – and I would like to see Bangladesh. The only option is to fly.

My planning continues – fine tuning the European and Asian route, and also putting together the third and final stage of the trip – the ‘South-East Asian’ leg.. 🙂

It has been a long road to arrive at this point, but actually, the road is just starting. Its exciting beyond belief, and bloody scary too. In September I will be leaving my job of 16 years and cycling from Eindhoven, the Netherlands – where I now live, to Adelaide, Australia – my birthplace. There is a lot of preparation to be done. I need to shed all my worldly possessions, learn a bit more about bike maintenance, arrange all sorts of paperwork, and plan the route.

You guys all helped me with my cycle trip in 2013 to the North Cape in Norway. You gave me great tips on my planned route, and I was able to meet up with some of you. I would like to do that here again with this more ambitious trip.

Here is a rough idea of how I want to get to Adelaide.
Bildschirmfoto 2014-01-07 um 20.26.05

In the coming weeks I will be putting together a planned route through Europe. It would be great to get some feedback on the route – roads I should take, places I should go.

This dream I had always thought would remain just a dream. It is too risky, too scary, too thrilling. My life situation is such that I can do this now. I am fit enough. I don’t want to look back on my life when on my death bed and think – I had the chance, and I let it go. A good friend of mine summed it up perfectly: Life is not a dressed rehearsal. I am going to do this!

To be continued!