Sunday, 26 August 2012


There have been some very supportive comments about my last post and I'm thankful for them. The routine of cycling each day takes my mind of the disabling homesickness but I can't cycle 24 hours a day and, if I'm honest, I'm in two minds about how or if to continue. The rains haven't eased and the boggy tracks and wet gear just take the edge of any enjoyment to be had. Just need to keep ploughing on for now so I can think rationally about what to do when I'm in a better frame of mind.

I've spent the last few days slowly getting higher into the foothills and am now in Recong Peo. Previously I enjoyed a couple of nights as the guest of a local dignitary, Prakesh Thakur, who kindly hosted me at his luxurious Orchard Retreat high above the Sutlej valley. I was invited there by my friend Tony who kindly sorted me out with a local SIM card and introduced me to his many friends in Thanedar. Back on the road the next couple of days was a different matter and it's been a struggle to get up to Recong Peo. A mixture of some ridiculous hills and some monstrous mud and rain. Really hoping the going gets easier soon or I simply get more used to the tough going. I was intending to spend another night as a guest at another Banjara lodge in the Sangla valley. Unfortunately I left until too late in the day to ascend the high valley path and had to turn back down for fear of being stranded and exhausted in the dark. Instead I took a night bus to Recong Peo where I write this.

One pleasant surprise is the lack of any sort of stomach looseness. I've made a point of eating various varieties of local food without worry and enjoyed some cheap and filling meals at dubious looking roadside Dhaba's. So far no ill effects. In Recong Peo I can get a permit which foreigners need for getting to near to the border before circling back west up to Leh. If the rains persist, I may simply bung my bike on top of a bus and cut out some of the misery.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The shock of the new

It's wet and misty in Shimla. It took me a long day of uncomfortable bus travel to get me and my bicycle up here from Delhi, but from here I should be able to get on the road into the mountains. I wish I could say that I'm excited and inspired and stuff like that, but mostly I'm shell-shocked, sad and full of tears.

48 hours ago I had a well-paid job and now I'm unemployed; 48 hours ago I had a beautiful girlfriend and now I'm lonely again; 48 hours ago I had friends and work colleagues in an environment I understood and now I'm an alien; 48 hours ago my children were a couple of hours away instead of another continent. I feel utterly out of place and the tearful goodbyes at Heathrow were crushing and too, too memorable. I'm not sure I really know what I'm doing but I hope it gets better soon. Knowing it may be a long time before I return home just emphasises all my feelings of isolation. I think it must take a very strong and determined mind to wander around the world, unsure of where or what tomorrow will bring. Perhaps I haven't appreciated just how much mental toughness is required, and I'm not sure I've got the right stuff. Dreaming is one thing, doing is definitely another!

I know, I know, this is all just the shock of the new and the pining for the comfort of the old. I'm not usually this negative, but it's a lot harder than I imagined to get into the right frame of mind and, at the moment, there's too much time and not enough scenery to stop me dwelling on what I've left behind. However, just writing this blog in a dusty internet cafe on the Shimla Mall (together with power cuts) helps me put things into perspective and feel more positive so please forgive me feeling sorry for myself.

I'm hoping the rains will stop tomorrow and give me a chance to cycle north without a soaking. I'll be heading into the Spiti Valley and somewhere along the way an Australian friend of mine manages a holiday lodge. I might stay for a couple of nights to acclimatise to the altitude before cycling further north to Leh and west to Srinagar. It will be nice to talk to people and feel less out of place. Let's hope so.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Time's up

Time is up. The past 6 weeks have flown by in a tangled blur of emotions, worries and nervous excitement. I completely stopped thinking about the practicalities of my adventure about 2 months ago. There was nothing left to plan, no routes left to trace on the map, no possible opportunities that I hadn’t already considered a hundred times. Instead, I just forgot all about it and left the bike and my gear stored in the spare room ready for the day of departure. Now the day is upon me and, like an electric shock, I’ve suddenly recalled the enormity of what I’m planning to do. But there’s no more time to consider, no more time to worry, just leave work and get to the airport.

I’ve realised that there’s no pressure to do any more or less than I feel comfortable with. The time off from considering all the practicalities has freed me to admit that I may simply return home in 6 months and get a job, or I may wander aimlessly for 5 years. I’ll go as far as I want to, no further. Let’s just see how it goes. Next week: India – I’ll keep you posted.