Monday, February 1, 2010

Biking Home

We've had a good time sorting out our bikes in Bangkok, not doing touristy things but trying to make the most of the facilities here. It's a big busy city perfect for shopping and we've spent more money in the last fortnight than I care to think about - but we're determined to make a go of cycle touring and we hope the investment pays off. I guess what we're hoping for is another kind of travel experience - a slower pace, an opportunity to see places that we wouldn't otherwise get to, and a sense of freedom - the feeling we get when we've set off trekking with our tent and food into the mountains - being independent and self-sufficient.
We've been inspired by so many other cyclists that we've met along the way. They've all been doing it in different ways too but their enthusiasm has been uniformly infectious. Callie & Luke, who introduced us to blogging, were going hi-tech London to Turkey. Callie was blogging on her mobile each evening in the tent and their parents were following them on Google Earth. Ruth & Gordon were just pootling about the coast of Turkey, taking it nice and easy. When we met John* in Dogubayazit he'd been going all out for Australia - and he's still going in the United States. Bishkek seemed to be the cycle-touring magnet though - here we met quite a few pedallers waiting for visas. There was Mikkel, trying to plot a route through Kazakhstan to Mongolia via Russia. Two crazy Germans were cycling Berlin to Beijing in 100 days for charity. Greg, our favourite Hungarian, was going low-tech from Beijing to Budapest on a Diamondback and with a Tesco's 7.99 tent. (When we asked what it was like in the rain, he told us it was s**t.) Greg, if anyone, showed us what is possible if you're determined enough. We met Dutch Jan no. 1 who was also heading to Beijing and cleverly raising money for charity by auctioning off souvenirs he found along the way. It was here that we finally got to meet Friedel & Andrew*, a couple who we had been following both geographically and electronically through their blog. They, along with John and Robin, who we haven't actually met, have been patiently answering our e-mailed queries about 'idiot' questions on How To Begin Touring.
Our occasional travelling companion and intrepid tour guide entrepreneur, James*, bought a bike in Kashgar and cycled to Islamabad along the Karakorum Highway. Then, most recently in China, we bumped into Andrea* and Gerhard. With the onset of winter on the Tibetan plateau they were toughing it out across the high passes and gravel roads. Whilst we rested in Chengdu we took long looks at the many bicycles that appeared at the guesthouse. Dutch Jan no.2, cycle-touring for the first time, and on his way to Australia, was happy to come along with us on a recce to some bike shops. Gayle met Chris, another Flickr junkie, loading his photos at the computer here.
As we're absolute beginners at this touring mularkey (I think the furthest I've ever cycled in one go was from my office to Manchester Town Hall and back), we have reconciled ourselves to the idea that we will not try to be purists - which basically means we'll take trains and buses when we feel like it. In fact our very first journey will be by train - out of Bangkok and north towards Sukhothai - to save us some time and avoid the terrible ride out of the capital!
*We've added links to their blogs, full of wonderful photos and accounts of their adventures, just on the bottom right of this page, below our photo links.

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