Out for a Bike Ride......Around the World and Back
In January of 2007, Gretchen and I both quit our jobs, packed our small rental house into a couple storage containers and set off for a long awaited, and even longer planned 10 months (42 weeks) of travel around this blue green ball we all call home. We started in Africa, climbing Kilimanjaro, which happens to be right around half way between Cario and Cape town. It was a good place to start, being cool and snowy on top, and us coming from Denver where it had been very cold and snowy were having trouble going from -15C to +30C in 2 days. But the climb was just a diversion from the real point of the trip which was to travel by bicycle down to Cape Town over the course of 4 months. Why bicycle? Well, the buses are terrible for one thing, but for us there are two (well three) main reasons to stick with two, human powered wheels. When traveling by bicycle, you are at the level of the local people – also traveling by bicycle much of the time, and this gains us much more acceptance and interaction than whizzing through on motorized transport. The second reason is that we see all the places between the usual tourist spots. There's usually a good reason for lack of tourists; the area may not be very interesting, but the culture is genuine, and we get the real challenge of finding food, and lodging in 100% local environment. And the third reason is that we're both exercise addicts.
After 4 months and 6,800 km of heat, dust, big animals, small animals, desert, and, surprisingly, snow, we got on a plane in the Cape Town winter, and arrived in Munich, Germany on May 30th. Suddenly it was spring! Warm, lush, flowers blooming, birds chirping, and light until very late at night. We had a couple fast, wonderful weeks with friends in Germany, during which much bike repair happened (touring is hard on bikes). Back on the bikes we followed the Danube river to Vienna, then Bratislava, and finally Budapest, where we finally broke off from the river and headed across eastern Hungary (very flat) and into Romania (not at all flat) eventually ending in Bucharest. Running short on time we jumped to Istanbul and spent a week in that amazing city with Gretchen's family, and then another 2 weeks in the Turkish countryside checking out the Mediterranean coast and ancient Greek and Roman ruins. Turkey is fantastic, wonderful, friendly people, phenomenal history, really bloody hilly on a bicycle, and, in July, unbearably hot (43C!!!) so we'll have to go back some other time.
Another big jump on Turkish Airways and we traded the bone-dry, bright blue, very rural heat of Turkey for the insane madness of Delhi in Monsoon. Delhi is insane madness regardless of the time of year, Monsoon just means it's hot and wet. Too wet to bike, so we caught a flight to Srinigar, Kashmir, went trekking for a week in the Kashmir Himalaya, before doing something really insane; biking through the Himalaya for 3 weeks at altitudes up to 18,000 ft. It was physically brutal, but exquisitely gorgeous, and the food, especially as a vegetarian, was fantastic, not to mention very friendly people, and lots of English spoken, especially after Turkey. More bicycle repair woes cut our Indian time a little short and we flew to Kathmandu for a month in Nepal, half of it spent it volunteering in Nangi Village. Finally, just as a treat, the cherry on top of a year off, we spent a month cycling in Japan in the fall, dodging rain, soaking up the culture and hot tubs, and enjoying some very well paved roads; a welcome relief for our back sides after the punishment of Indian and Nepali roads.
Some quick stats:
42 weeks traveling
10,000 digital pictures taken; trimmed down to 3240, and the best of the best are on display on smugmug
Broke: more bike parts than I ever dreamed of (3 rear wheel rims, 2 bottom brackets, 1 pair of pedals, 1 headset, 1 pannier rack, a seat (!!) and the list goes on with more minor stuff)
But in ALL that time, we were never physically threatened in any way, except once, by an elephant, in Tanzania. (Not counting the trucks and buses which routinely tried to kill us, but that's normal and expected, and for that matter, we never were deliberately run off the road)
As is so fashionable these days, we blogged our way around the planet, using travelpod.com:
blogs on Travelpod
Gretchen's blogs on Travelpod
Questions? Comments? Random musings?, email me or email Gretchen.
For some time now, Gretchen and I have been talking about one last hurrah before we do something mature and responsible like settle down, have kids, assume an oppressive mortgage, and otherwise join in the American dream. Other than immediately after college, there is rarely a "good time" to undergo a complete and total disconnect from daily life, so we figured 2007 was as good a time as any, and we're planning to be out of the western hemisphere for most of it. We'll be traveling primarily by bicycle with full gear for camping, cooking, and otherwise surviving. Camping will depend on location, but we'll probably be living in the tent 2/3 of the time. Life is pretty cheap when all your possessions fit on 2 wheels. The map shows the grand overview, but I'm not good enough at spiffy image things to have it click-able so here's the old fashioned list.
Phase 4: Japan for a month assuming we're not
sick of traveling by then, or
really enjoying Nepal and our volunteer stint there and decided to stay for another year.
"Gonna free fall, out into nothing, gonna leave this world for a while" - Tom Petty
"Look on the bright side Fezzik, we're having an adventure. Many people have lived and died without being so fortunate" - Inigo Montoya
"Roam if you want to, roam around the world" - B52's
"Of course it hurts. The trick is not to mind that it hurts" - Lawrence of Arabia
If you worry, you die.
If you don't worry, you also die.
So why worry?
The problem with the rat race is that the rats keep winning.
Some days take less, but most days take more, some slip through your fingers and onto the floor - U2
If you stop taking chances, you stay where you sit. You won't live any longer but it will feel like it -U2
(I was thinking of making some web pages, but haven't gotten around to it yet)
The International Bicycle Fund Based in Seattle, focussed on Africa.
Treads Bike Shop, the Englewood branch in particular where we did a lot of outfitting for this trip.
The Porter Assistance Project, A Boulder Co based program to improve the welfare of porters in Nepal and on Kilimanjaro.
The gear. there's a lot of gear. but it all has to fit on two bikes