So, I’ve not written for a little while. Sorry about that. I think it’s mainly because it’s when I’m riding that my brain really has time to think, and there’s been very little riding to speak of over the last couple of weeks. It’s been rest time for me. I knew that the jump from Europe to Asia would be a big one and one where I’d likely take some time off, although I didn’t anticipate it would be quite this long.
Despite the lack of cycling, the adventure has certainly continued and I’ve seen and experienced some wonderful things over the last few weeks. After Bulgaria, I travelled across the Black Sea on a ferry, a very strange experience, 3 days of what I imagine prison life to be like with strict canteen meal times and confinement to a very small space. Weirdly, I quite enjoyed the routine by the end of the three days and it’s an experience that will definitely stick with me, but don’t worry I’m not going to embark on a life of crime in order to relive it.
Georgia was a shock to the system, stunning scenery, lush green vegetation, mountains, aggressive drivers and lots and lots of cheese, bread, butter and homemade wine. I spent 6 days cycling through Georgia which I have to admit were some of my worst days of my trip so far. When I reached Tbilisi my nerves were in tatters and my confidence, despite months of cycling, had been seriously knocked, so I holed up in the city for nearly a week, not wanting to move from the comfort of the hostel and its inhabitants. After a week I still couldn’t muster the strength to get back on my bike and with a pretty heavy heart I left Tbilisi, and boarded a train to Baku in Azerbaijan. This wasn’t how I wanted to finish my European section of the trip, I felt disheartened and disappointed with myself, but for some reason I just couldn’t find the strength to face those few days riding across the one country that I’d most been looking forward to.
After three days in beautiful Baku, my spirits were lifted and it was time to make the jump from Europe to Asia. I said goodbye to Europe from Istanbul spending time with one of my favourite people in the world, and shared my arrival into Asia with my wonderful mum who was waiting at the departures gate in Dubai when I arrived for my second flight over to Sri Lanka.
In Sri Lanka, seeing mum’s dream to meet wild elephants come true, was truly magical. The image of her face when she got so close she could almost touch one is something I will remember forever. Climbing Ella Rock on my 31st birthday was pretty signficnat too. In December last year I’d hit rock bottom but there I was 10 months later, at the top of that proverbial rock having turned my 30th year into something remarkable. For these reasons, my memories of Sri Lanka will always be really really special.
After Sri Lanka mum and I hopped over to India, beautiful beautiful India, and spent a few days riding from Chennai to Pondicherry. What an experience, we had a hoot.
After all the luxury and time off of the last couple of weeks, I’m well and truly ready to get back on my bike and cover some serious ground, but I’m currently in Kolkata awaiting my Chinese visa so I have a couple more days before I can get moving again, but that’s no problem for me because I love it here.
As many of you will know, India is a very special place for me, I spent 3 magical weeks here 6 years ago and fell in love with this patchwork of a country. Each state is totally different, religiously, culturally, climatically, environmentally, each one has its own identity, but at the same time there are things that you will find India over. These things emanate from the Indian people, the hospitality, the openness, the kindness, the enthusiasm, the curiosity, the head wobble, the list goes on but it’s this that makes India so beautiful.
Many people that I’ve met along the way have said that India would be the part of my adventure that they would be most worried about, and I have to admit, the thought of riding on India’s roads and walking Indian streets by myself did worry me in the weeks before I arrived. But I really shouldn’t have let the worry in. Riding on the Indian roads is some of the most pleasurable riding I’ve experienced, yes it’s chaotic, yes it’s loud and yes it’s hot, but it’s so much fun. The chaos seems to work, a bit like the house I grew up in. You can never quite understand how it works, but it just does, people get to where they need to be, perhaps not on time, but they get there, and they get there safely somehow. It leaves me feeling exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. The groups of school children in tuk tuks screaming and waving as I ride past, the moped riders whose pillions take selfies of me and them as they ride past, make the riding all the more enjoyable.
Despite my pleasures of riding there are some stark realities that have to be faced in India, as there are in all developing countries. In Kolkata, the starkness of the realities of life are in ultra sharp focus. A country lacking an effective public health service is a country where physical and mental disability are commonplace in the public domain and all too often these vulnerable people are reduced to life on the streets. Public welfare is limited, which results in numerous families also taking up a very basic life on the cities streets. It can be hard to see and the reality hits you in the face when you see a little girl all dressed up ready for a birthday party crossing the street and getting into a Mercedes, while a filthy dirty naked baby sits on the exact same pavement next to one of the many street dogs. The reality as I say is stark.
But the only positive I can take from what I see is that it’s honest. It’s there, everyone can see it and nobody can hide from it. In the U.K. we benefit from a wonderful healthcare system and an equally generous welfare system, however there are still struggles in the U.K. Mental health, poverty, domestic abuse, homelessness, drug addiction, so many issues but for us the problem is predominately behind closed doors. And in my opinion this is more dangerous and worrying than seeing it on the street. We can deny its existence, we can carry on in our own world and not think about those who may live on the same street as us worrying about how they will pay their rent, trying not to drink that next bottle of vodka, battling with depression. I’m not saying that I’d rather the UK was like India, of course I don’t, but it scares me to think of the numbers of people that are suffering with nobody knowing.
5000km to go!!!!! Love to all.