A journey into our journey
The route we’ve biked from Kathmandu to New Delhi has been full of wonderful encounters and breathtaking views. This time, our story will be told by our friends, Mary, Lang and Alexa, who joined us for the last 6 weeks of our trip. You will discover their experiences and how it felt to travel as a team. We will write a final story about our entire trip very soon. But first enjoy this update...
You can change a bicycle tire but can a bicycle change you?
The start in Kathmandu
Uncertain and anxious
Can I keep up?
Am I too fat and too tired ?
Those questions are answered now and my old confidence renewed
Along the way
We are 'Selfie celebrities'; Parking lots, curb side, even drive-by highway selfies!
Choruses of school kids waving in response to our ride by waves (Neither of these ever happens at home)
Humbled by how often we are met with friendship hospitality and generosity.
Our new found friends: Candace, Madhev and Tikendre watch over us
Frank Sylvia and Alexa; Fast friends become faster friends, gaps close. So does our riding peloton
Mary, my best friend is better still.
Eyes are opened
I looked upon natural wonders I'll never forget
I witnessed man made horrors I want to forget
Social media posts are happy and true but filtered. upsetting and ugly things are left out. those things are very real and still here.
Thick brown dust, gravel, rocks, splattering wet clay and blissful asphalt
My bike falls here are definitely preferred to last fall at home.
At first it's about the daily destination: When? Where? How far? How much climbing?
Gradually it's about the journey; 'don't worry we will figure it out'.
Don't think ahead'. However it's good to look back and reflect on the day, (sometimes around an evening campfire)
Food as fuel
When you burn more than you eat all food, any food is good.
Coke, cookies, candy bars; At home, rarely. Here, daily.
Yet with all the junk eating, my pants are still a little looser.
The draw of home vs the call of the road.
Passing by a parent with their child reminds me of home
Family videos make me want to fly right back.
When I'm here I sometimes want to be there.
These feelings make difficult things harder and the journey seem too long
Still, I don't want this trip to end. Back at home I will want to be here.
Riding with friends, seeing new things. Life washing over you like wind on a bike.
These feelings ease the difficulties and make me fear the journey ends too soon.
I'm so lucky to have both a home that I love combined with the chance to travel.
I can't be in two places at once. So I must learn to fully enjoy where I am.
Can a bicycle change me? Yes I think so. I return home
Different than I arrived. Less fat, less tired. Definitely more fat-tired.
Frank and Sylvia this made this trip possible. I needed this more than I realized. I'm deeply grateful to my friends for this wonderful gift.
Decisions made and tickets booked. Mary, Lang and I will meet Sylvia and Frank in Kathmandu, Nepal on December 30th, 2018!
Excitement to be doing this after a false start earlier in April
Packing, repacking and rethinking what gears to take over and over for weeks
Some nervous questions going through my mind: will joining Frank and Sylvia upset their rhythm after their already being on the road for 6 months? Will it be too physically challenging? Will being the 5th wheel be awkward?
1400 kms and a multitude of incredible experiences later, the nervous questions were more than calmed. The trip was to take us generally westward from Kathmandu to Delhi though we made a number of excursions in different directions.
Eastern circuit into the Kathmandu Valley to test gears and acclimatize in the altitude
Northern spur into the Annapurna Conservation Area to get up close and personal with the Himalayas
South to Chitwan in search of rhinos, tigers and elephants
Then, continuing West to experience the Terai with its untouristed villages before finally crossing the border into India.
We made new friends and experienced extraordinary hospitality every where along the way. With so much given to us in so many ways, I can only hope we gave something back as well. Whether it be the chance for a school child to practice English or for someone to take a selfie with us or to give a 15 year old girl exposure to possibilities that she could aspire to for her own life.
Amongst the beauty of the environments and people there were also challenges like dust, air pollution, tough pushes and climbs (Frank might argue this one) and crazy traffic - getting into and around Delhi by bike is an adrenaline rush!. Some of the conditions people live in are also difficult to comprehend coming from a world where the basics and more are (mostly) a given.
There is no question that both Nepal (35 million) and India (one of the largest and certainly the densest population in the world) have infrastructure issues and long held beliefs/practices that are proving difficult to change. From discussions with locals, one of the questions is whether governments are truly helping their people or are they simply helping themselves? While this is a typical political issue, the stakes somehow seem higher for these populations than ours. Also fascinating is that Nepal, always an independent nation, holds a strategic position between China and India putting the country in a place where the world is paying attention.
Through the trip and all of our adventures our friendships deepened and we became stronger as a unit and physically - at packing up camp, at riding in peloton formation and in figuring out our way.
We all brought different attitudes and temperaments to the team:
Frank: experienced bike world traveller, extraordinary planning, orienteering and map interpreting, knowledgeable and confident leader
Sylvia: taking care of us, checking in, noticing when someone is flagging, encouraging and drafting the weary, my soul-sister
Mary: available and encouraging, tuk-tuk controller and fabulous peloton signaller, life saver (particularly during the plastic bag incident) and now soul-sister as well
Lang: wit and wisdom, a wordsmith and deep thinker, able to articulate an experience with depth and vulnerability, incredibly inspiring after going through more than a year of his own hell, fellow hill climber
Thank you all so so so much!! These souvenirs will last a life time.
What are we doing next?!?
I have found it difficult to find words big enough to express the impact of our adventure. Let me try and paint a picture or two, maybe this will give a glimpse into the magic.
My favourite time of our cycle day was the morning. Not because my sit bones hadn’t yet started to yell at me but because our departures coincided with the village children’s walk to school. Blue, green, maroon uniforms, shirts with ties and tunics lined both sides of the road. Kids arm in arm. Hands held. Sisters helping younger brothers and friends laughing with friends.
When we rode by faces would stare in amazement. Was it the fat bike? The white skin? Middle-aged women in board shorts? Bald guys? All of the above. The stares dissolved as we called out ”hello”, “Namaste”. Hands waved and giggles followed us. Responses in all manner of English were offered. There did seem to be a universal understanding of two particular English words: Justin Bieber. Those giggles stay with me and I have downloaded some Bieber.
There was one boy, maybe 6 or 7 wearing a green toque, he stopped dead in his tracks leaving his siblings to continue walking. His jaw literally dropped and his head followed our progression. I wonder what story he told at home that night? I know I will always tell the story of seeing him.
The people we met along the way were special. They opened their hearts and literally, their homes to us. It was a gift to be hugged by the country of Nepal. We often would ask “would this happen at home”; “would people do this for strangers”? Our answer would be “not likely”. There is such importance to the kindness for strangers. We can’t forget that.
We constantly were amazed at how when we were mud splattered from head to toe, the brilliantly coloured sari’s of women riding side saddle on motor bikes were immaculate. What? How does that happen? Not a speck of mud. One school uniform included white pants; white pants are you kidding me? And they were white!
We experienced sights of squalor and misery but we also marvelled at homes that were immaculate and kept with bursting pride. Dirt floors swept until they glowed. In India, we saw so much trash. Vancouver is a paradise, pristine mountains, waters and clean air. We take these for granted. We need to stop and appreciate how fragile our environment is and do all we can to protect it.
I hope this paints a bit of a picture of our experience. It is indescribable on so many levels. I can’t thank you enough you Fabulous Five. You are in my heart forever.