Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Like a hurricane

After 49 years I should have had life pretty much worked out and been prepared for anything that it could throw at me. Instead it seems I'm less prepared now than when I was a naive teenager. I've spent almost every waking moment of the last 3 years planning and dreaming about spending the next 5 years travelling around the exotic places of the world and leaving behind the temptations and pitfalls of London life. I'd left behind a great job, said a sad goodbye to family and friends and put my thoughts and savings into camping and cycling gear which would protect me against every possible danger and unexpected circumstance. There wasn't an instance I hadn't considered, an action I hadn't thought through. I'd bored everybody senseless with what I was doing and where I was going, and offered a sly smile when colleagues offered best wishes tinged with jealousy. I had it all worked out. The next five years was already written. It would make a great blog, a book maybe, but definitely an adventure of some shape or other.

Then along came a little hurricane that knocked me off my feet. After that came a monsoon which put me upright again. The mountains and valleys weren't breath-taking, just cold and wet. The hardship wasn't romantic, just tiring. The open road wasn't liberating, just restrictive. I'm sadly forced to admit that when the going got tough, I got going - home. Suddenly I didn't want it any longer, not enough anyway. I'd voluntarily turned my life upside down to go travelling and then turned it inside out a month later. But the end-result presents a nicer picture which I couldn't have imagined.

I've upset too many people by leaving and probably disappointed the remainder by returning but it is what it is. My long-planned adventure is over, but there are other adventures. I've come home and started down another sunnier road, and I'm happy to go wherever it turns. Thank you to everybody who offered their support and comments via this rather truncated travel journal. Now I need to get a job.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

I'm reviewing the situation?

Muddy passes, washed out roads and dire warnings from motorists coming the other way have activated my self-preservation setting and I've returned south to Shimla to await the end of this ridiculously extended monsoon season. There isn't much in the way of camping opportunities in the steep-sided Sutlej valley and the mud and rough ground have twice left me on the verge of being stranded miles from accommodation. Twice now, I've found myself panicking for lack of mileage but both times have managed to flag down a local Tata bus that I can dump my bike on and breathe a sigh of relief at being delivered to some mud-spit guest house in a one-dog town I've never heard of at 2am. I reluctantly got the message that this one-way valley road was telling me to turn-around.

Two days of spine-displacing bus rides brought me back to my starting point in Shimla for some reconsideration of my targets. I now cannot get up into the Himalaya's through Leh and Srinagar and out again before winter sets in. Judging by the messed up weather patterns I'm not pinning my hopes on a late 'Indian' summer either. These valleys and mountains will have to wait for another year and I'm despondent at my retreat. But these last couple of nights in Shimla have left me wondering if I'm my life is heading in the same direction as my anticipated tyre tracks. What if this isn't what I want? What if all the planning and dreams and remorseless collecting of equipment has proved for nothing. The moment I consider returning home on a hastily booked flight to consider my options, I know immediately that it's what I'll do. To hell with it.

Within an hour I'm at an internet cafe looking up flight deals. Unfortunately the connection is flaky. Twice I'm scuppered by loss of connection just as I want to confirm. Fortunately after a few texts to my parents they've managed to book me a flight out of here. A quick rush around the back-streets of Shimla searching for string, cardboard and packing tape and straight back to box and pack. I've booked a private cab back to Delhi in the morning. I'm going home for a while. I think I'd better think it out again!