WELCOME TO THE JOURNEY

Let's ride

A bit of walking never hurt the soul.

I just returned after spending a month in Kham, Tibet (Sichuan, China). It was a beautiful experience, new, rough, and at times very emotional.

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Sometimes people allow “life” to become such a heavy burden they become so weighted down they can’t find the strength to really live. Trust me, it’s not easy at times…and there are tears, there is heartbreak, there is waking up every morning to myself, and at times telling myself to be quiet because I’m tired of hearing my own voice. I’ve seen poverty at it’s worst and I’ve seen happiness and love at an intensity I will never be able to describe. I can not carry the burdens of you, or the world, my fellow man and woman, or my own…because if I were to do so, I wouldn’t be able to find the energy or time to love you, and you, and you and you and you and mostly, YOU!

Play

Standing next to a cliff with fresh ice melt trickling into a stream, weaving between hundreds of animal skulls and pelts; the smell of the rot is overwhelming. I carefully, and respectfully, walk away from the ritual grounds while never turning my back upon the site of ancient magic.

A small group of Tibetans greet me and there is a community of three or four families living in permanent, mud packed structures. I watch her laughing to herself as she marches along the perimeter of the organic, white washed, wall. Walking towards the stupa, she slips her hand into my palm. Closing her tiny, weather worn fingers around my hand and we look at each other and smile with a child-like gaze. No one is leading nor lagging; traveling together in unison and harmony; souls complementing one another.

The touch reminds me I’m human, with all my insecurities and fears; overwhelmed with the innocence, imagination, and purity of the child’s love. We play with the horses, laugh under the prayer flags while inspecting and investigating everything that sparks our curiosity. She falls over with giggles after watching my attempt to milk the goats, even after her excellent hands-on instructions. She is flying around all of us, feet barely ever touching the ground, buzzing with energy and joy. Her brightness and warmth glows as intense as the last, and single ray of sunshine.

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We have forgotten how to play, as adults, like when we were innocent children. We have been conditioned to follow the herd which leaves our child self yearning for approval and tending to. We are losing our imagination. We are losing our desire to spend countless hours with our self to hope, dream, recollect, and LOVE.

Every day, I find somewhere to dance, whether it’s in my room or in the streets during my evening walk that I take every night after 11pm. My street disco has made some laugh, some smile, some point. I have to do what makes me happy while causing no harm to others. I’ve begun to learn a new instrument and I’m going back to creating art, such as sketching and drawing. I allow myself more time away to stare out the windows and watch the storm clouds without the guilt I should be “working”. I’ve had to find a way to survive in this society that has told us we are “ill” or “wrong” for straying from the herd…refusing to be led to a life of apathy and complacency.

In light of this weeks events, I’ve made a big mistake and opened my mouth before thinking and writing it out eloquently and posted it on Facebook. I apologize for all those I upset, and please feel free to request I remove you from the mailing. I’ve shut down Facebook because it’s proved to me that most of those 1002 “friends” don’t know me, don’t know my tone, and have no idea what I do with my life. They have no idea of where I’ve come from nor care where I’m going. I’ve only recently learned how depressed people become by watching a FB newsfeed…so I’ve decided to quit blasting people with positive and thought provoking ideas. You can come here, and as some of you know, I respond to every email I receive.

Because I plan on writing this book about finding a selfless path and mindful way to live, it’s becoming easier to voice why I chose to go on a “journey”. In retrospect, my journey was much like a spiritual pilgrimage where I found my own church, temple, mecca, stupa, and learned to love myself. In the night sky, I found my constellation…the lone huntress with her antelope at her side. She sparkles so bright and lights the way ahead. “Stars can not shine without darkness”…and I birth my genius in the blackest of nights.

I have been refusing a simple label of “ill” for the past 22 years. I refuse to believe that we as humans, as soulful, compassionate, loving, and nurturing bundles of amazing energy, can be simply labeled as “ill” or “wrong”. The mind is an amazing muscle and it needs exercise, freedom, love, and understanding. I left on my pilgrimage to save myself…to find a reason why I am the way I am. To find a fulfilling path in life and to understand that life is not purely for the benefit of the self. Sacrifice. I’ve had to face, and still daily, all the horrible, selfish, demeaning, embarrassing things I’ve done over the past 35 years. But I know in my heart, it was learning, it was developing, it was that led me here. How else was an adult suppose to survive that was told she was “ill” at 13? Telling that to an adolescent is like handing her a death wish…especially a very awkward, out of place, funny, loving, and creative girl.

As someone that has faced death by choice more than once and has come too close by accident, I want to say one thing. Do what you have to to survive. Anything, ANYTHING. But do it with thoughtfulness and awareness. Question everything. Look! Feel! We are losing dreamers, thinkers, creatives, loving, empathetic, selfless people to suicide. The universe is losing the souls that will make a difference, that try to save us from ourselves, that are telling us to open our eyes.

We are not “ill”, we are living in a diseased society that refuses to allow us to be true to our nature.

I’m not really sure if I should post this, or I will…but I want to thank each and everyone of you for having the bravery to live your life to the best way you see fit. I didn’t start this blog to be popular or win friends. I did this for me…and I hope I can share something with you. Even if before you write, “Please remove me from your mailing list”, I hope I provoked you to think about what’s going on in our culture.

Granted, not everyone can just jump on a bicycle and whiz around the world to figure it out. I get this. I’m beyond blessed. BEYOND. And every day I wake up thanking everyone, the cosmos, the heavens, mother nature, father time, God, Allah, whoever is listening…that I’m here, with another chance to make amends and do good. I hope this weekend you can take a hike into the woods, or go to the beach, or read a book…or turn up that music and just dance like no one is watching. I want you to laugh so hard you fall on the floor with your belly full of joy.

All this stuff has really helped me developed my voice as a photographer as well. We all know the world is suffering, I’m now looking for the voices of survivors. Those that can inspire us to think and live differently. Uyghurs, Central Asians, Tibetans, Bangladeshis…I love them all equally and I always turn my thoughts to them and see their smiles under back breaking labor or brick dust coating every inch of their body.

I’ve consciously chosen this path of being alone, working alone, being broke most of the time. I don’t need a lot in my life, I went without for so long. I can’t think this life any other than a blessing…because I’ve found peace within myself.

DANG, this felt good.

LOVE PEACE AWARENESS CLARITY ACTION AND CONSCIOUSNESS…GO!

Choose to live.

“Just choose one, Moseman…both will you lead you somewhere”. At a crossroads where I don’t have a legal permit to be, only 2 buses passing a day, 1 liter of water remaining, eating emergency food rations, and extended time at that altitude was causing horrendous physical effects, I was predicting my demise…you don’t have time to sit at a crossroads examining the paths to see which seems to show a history of more travel or kicking dirt around trying to forsee what will be at the end of each road. It’s not about the path we choose in life, it’s about making a choice and then cycling through with conviction, passion, dedication, free thought, and open heart. It’s not what route you choose that matters, it’s how you live through the journey that you felt was the “right”one at that moment. People say they are “lost”, no, they aren’t…they have chosen not to choose…they haven’t yet begun their journey. How can you be lost in life when you aren’t even living? This ain’t the gospel…just the inner-ramblings of a long-distance-lunatic-cyclist on a saga with skies in the eyes and a fiery heart that rules my journey.

Eleanor Moseman is a photographer and storyteller that cycled solo around Asia and Tibet.

Guess what ya’ll?! I’ve decided to hunker down in late winter/early spring to write the book. Yes…it’s ready to be spilled and chapters written that never graced this blog.

Mercy

Hours spent sitting along the banks of Namucuo, the highest alpine lake on Earth, watching the current bring the most crystal clear water to my feet. Complete silence except for a single heartbeat, the pulsing of my own blood, and the water gently rolling and crashing to accompany the beat of my own rhythm. No one around for as far as eyes could see, small schools of fish coming to the surface, massive black ravens along the bank tending to themselves, and thousands of insects silently skimming across the lake. The waters and skies merging into one along the horizon, unable to differentiate between earth and the heavens. We are one and at the mercy of it all.

Lake Namu in Tibet Autonomous Region and photographed by Eleanor Moseman.

Lake Namu in Tibet Autonomous Region

A Revolution

Modern day society has no place for those of us who have no desire to be leaders and refuse to be simply led. There are a few places left on this earth that allows us curious wanderers and rejects of the world to be free and live anonymously to learn and develop our true self and accept one’s purest form of identity. We can only have one perfect relationship in life, and that’s with ourself, once we’ve learn to accept and love all our imperfections. Not enough love in the world these days, folks…to all my fellow loners, misfits, and dreamers…it’s time for a revolution of consciousness.
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I turned 35 last month…I started my journey a month shy of being 31, as I was still 30…which is also a very special year.

Taken from http://thezodiac.com/jungnutshell.htm

Second Half Of The Journey
Then, around the age of 35, we slowly begin experiencing a subtle, but nagging sense of restlessness and unease. By now, our psychic basements, that Jung called “the shadow,” are stuffed pretty full and the contents of our neglected basements are now starting to demand a wee bit of our attention.

If we continue ignoring the pleas of our psychic basements – then, our basements have a tendency to get musty and nasty.

So then, between the ages of 35-45, we typically experience what’s called the “midlife crisis.” Symptoms of the midlife crisis are that we have grown tired, listless, and restless. We wonder if “this” is all that life is about.

If all goes well (and that’s a big if) during our midlife crisis, we then spend the rest of our lives on a new journey of “growing down” and reclaiming all the valuable stuff that we’d previously hidden away in the deepest part of our psychic basements.

Jung: “When the king grows old and needs renewing, a kind of planetary bath is instituted – a bath into which all the planets pour their ‘influences.’ This expresses the idea that the ‘dominant,’ grown feeble with age, needs the support and influence of those subsidiary lights to fortify and renew it.” from the “Mysterium Coniuntionis” CW 14, C.G. Jung

Yep! “The soul is its own source of unfolding.” It really is simple, you know.

Also from Heraclitus: “You will not find the boundaries of soul by traveling in any direction, so deep is the measure of it.”

Part of Part 5…

The day before arriving in Tajikistan I had found a shaded area on the side of the road and had lied down on the grass to beat the heat.

There is rustling behind me, near the concrete drainage ditch running parallel to the road. I’m looking for the source of the noise…I sit up from the puddle of sweat that’s on top of my tent’s ground covering. I look into the drainage ditch, there is a bit of water and I see a baby bird thrashing around.

Of course, I must save this little thing. It barely has any feathers on it and I’m sure it fell out of a nest somewhere. I look above me, I go through the trees surrounding me, looking up…trying to spot a nest or it’s mother while listening for chirps of the brothers and sisters. I’m really not sure what do. As a kid that grew up in the mountains of Virginia, I had encountered enough baby birds and our family either took them to sanctuaries or tried to plop them back in their nest. My parents always reminding me, “don’t touch them, their mother will smell you on them and reject the baby bird”.

So hearing my parents in my head, I find a small branch and fish the baby bird out of the ditch. Be careful not to let it drop from a higher point, I would be devastated if I were to break it’s neck. I’m not sure if there are enough Om Mani Pad Me Hum’s to relinquish me from that.

I successfully get the baby out and set it near a tree trunk. Listening to it squeak from my nap area, I pass out from the mid-afternoon heat. I awake a half an hour later, no squeaking, no bird.

Also, during this time, I am led to believe a bug crawled into my ear. Well, I’m sure there was an insect at my ear and now every time it hurts or itches…I swear it must be an Uzbek insect headed to my brain.

That is all, for now.

Uzbekistan, Part 5: Samarkand to Dushanbe, Tajikistan (July 4 – July 9 2012)

I would arrive to Samarkand with very little clue where to find a place to stay. It’s actually a lot easier than I made it out to be but either way I spent 3 hours in the heat trying to find a hostel. At one point when I was sitting on a stoop in a labyrinth of old homes in the “old town” an ambulance pulled up to check on me for heat exhaustion. I explained to them I was okay and what I was trying to find. The guesthouse was only a few minutes away.

I’m going to apologize now for rushing through a lot of these posts. I’ve grown a bit weary of blogging and sometimes I just don’t feel like pulling out stories, feelings, emotions, and deep thoughts from two years ago when I’m developing and following a different train of path right now. What I’m currently chewing on is basically based on these thoughts and feelings but bringing them to maturity and some coherence. In all reality, I really hate writing about facts and history and am in this mode of digging deeper.

Entering the guesthouse with a beautiful garden, it’s a bit quiet at the moment but see one bicycle in the garden. Over the next week I would make some wonderful new friends, people I still stay in contact with. Samarkand made me a bit lazy but it was great meeting so many like minded travelers. You all know who you are, so I don’t have to go over the roster. There were some great times in that guest house and I would run into some of them again in Dushanbe. Chris-Alex would arrive eventually and we had made plans to meet up again in Dushanbe as he was in Tashkent arranging his Visas. I had also made plans to perhaps run into another cyclist, Jacques, in the Pamirs…but he would carry on but would see each other again in Kashgar over a month later.

Leaving July 4th, as it just seemed like the date to move on, I would head towards Dushanbe and predicting I would arrive in less than a week. I bid goodbye to the few that were at the guesthouse after 3 in attempts to beat the nearly unbearable heat of Central Asia. Towards sunset I would begin to climb some hills and few little descents. There would be moments of a few slight descents down a hill.

A not so friendly couple I met in Samarkand would pass me as I was finishing my dinner at a cafe and they asked me if I was okay. I was actually fairly proud of myself considering they left Samarkand before me yet I sped past them.

I would pull over to a little market in hopes to buy water. Before I knew the entire mud packed shop was filled with children women and men offering me fresh, cold well water to drink from. I sat and drank, and talked, and refilled my bottles. This is one of those moments that still sits so vividly with me 2 years later. I remember walking away back to the road and turning around and seeing them all out front waving goodbye with smiles. There are times I regret taking photographs of all these moments but I sometimes wonder if the memories wouldn’t sit with me the way they do after so much time has passed.

I’m nearing mountains towards dusk and there are men on the sides of the street offering me that delicious cold milk beverage I had given to me by that beautiful Uzbek woman in the Nurata mountains. Passing the bowl to me, I drink. I never assume anything is for free and it cost me close to a USA dollar…I look at as supporting the local economy.

Sun is setting and I find myself riding up a gorge of sorts. There is nowhere to really set up a tent so I wait until near nightfall and push my bike off the side of the road and precariously down to the water. It’s one of the most perfect places I’ve slept, ever. I remember lying there, listening to the water stream by and staring into the night sky…nearly falling into a trance state. What I would do to go back to that evening to hear the thoughts running through my head.

A view in the morning. July 5th 2012
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It’s hot and I have a pass to climb. As I’m climbing I have a young man on a donkey keep asking me to ride the bike. He’s getting close to me while on his donkey. I can sense the donkey not feeling comfortable and I’m surely not. After this for about 10 minutes I pull over and stop. I instruct in English and hand signals he needs to go on. I’m getting flustered and I’m hot. It’s not even 10am yet. I can sense a day of frustration looming ahead…

At the top of the pass, I pull over to use the well water to clean my face, brush my teeth, and have a little sponge bath. There is a van pulled over and there is a small group of men watching me. As I’m sitting in the shade resting and looking off into the distance from the summit, they start fondling my bike and one even trying to get on it. So…what do I do…I run over to his van, open the door, get in, and begin to try to turn the truck on. Yeah…they got the jist. I’m just not into dealing with men today and I can feel it all coming to a point.

As I ride away, I now notice my bike has a puncture. Great. (I can feel myself getting stressed again just as I write this.) I pull over and begin to pull out my tools. Before I can even blink I have over a dozen men and boys shoving their hands into the gears, drive train, and grabbing my tools from my hand. Yeah, I get it, I get it…I’m a woman and you’re trying to be men and take care of this and me. I’ve had absolutely enough and start shouting as I’m being suffocated next to my bike by the men surrounding me and even pressing up against me to get a better view. The lady loony has everyone evacuated within a couple of minutes. Finally, let me breathe and work.

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I begin the descent and pass a stretch of cafes where I pull over to cool off with more water. In the concrete basin at the base of the mountain that the public uses to wash off, I look for the puncture in my tube and I can’t find it. I have a very kind boy help me try to find it. We exchange smiles and a few words, he can’t seem to find it either. I thank him and I move along.

A couple hours from dusk, as I’ve now returned to a flat stretch of barren desert landscape I ride through a very small community lining the road. I go slowly and two teen boys wave me over with a gate open into a home. I stop and look over. They are definitely waving to me so I head over, thinking this could be my safe sleeping space for the evening.

I would stay 2 nights here.

Upon entering the courtyard, I’m instructed to sit down on the blanket and finishing having something to eat with the family. There is an older couple present and teenage girls and younger boys. Within 30 minutes, I have had my fingernails painted and now I’m being dragged into the living room inside the house and a dance party has begun with me and all the women and girls. They are playing Bollywood videos and the song “Jimmy” (Archer) comes on and I’m familiar with this one. Again, dance has brought smiles, laughter, and women together across language and culture divides.

The sun has set and now three of the teen girls and I are arranging our sleeping mats in the garden and courtyard. It’s an open space with grapevines lining the edges. The night desert air is now cool and my mind has become calm being with women and girls. I feel safe, this will be a good nights rest under the star sprinkled sky with young girls talking quietly next me…with the conclusion that I will stay tomorrow.

I spend the morning with the younger girls and boys having tea in the neighbors garden.
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We go for a walk to visit neighbors and I see a magical site. This taxi pulls over and I see a child get out of the right side door of this Lada. Then the woman…then the donkey!
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Spending some time in the kitchen and baking naan in the tandoor.
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I would spend the remaining of the day with this young woman. There was such an intense feeling of trust with her, she could of probably directed me to do anything and I would followed suit.

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From what I was told by her she is the daughter in law of the family and is responsible for all of the household chores. She told me how she missed her family a lot but kind of just shrugged it off and it accepted it as fact. We went to the market together, milked cows…after finding her, feeding the goats, and she washed and braided my hair. Since cycling, it’s been the first time in a very long time I’ve had hair past my shoulders…over the past 4 years I’ve had so many women and girls fingers run through it. I can’t bare to cut it these days, either.

At one point we were sitting in a garden and I was talking with a group of women and children and there questions about my family and America. I’ll never forget their faces when I explained it was night time at that current moment and that my parents were sleeping.

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I would be dragged away from her by this one man and his children…his daughter had been spending the day with me earlier. We rode in his car for about 1/4 of kilometer to his neighbors. I knew exactly what was going on, I was being shown off. He then asks me in front of a group of men and a few women why I don’t have babies. Then looks at me and says, “Diseased?!” I’ve had enough with you mister but I play nicely as I know that my safety could be at risk. He shows me around and I try to express my indifference and irritation with him. I just want to go back to the women and girls.

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Dinner would be prepared this evening in a different family’s house and I would sleep with two of the girls from the previous night under the grapevines and stars. My favorite gal had left earlier to be with her in laws. Again, as I state over and over…I have some return visits that must be made to Uzbekistan to see some of the most wonderful women I’ve ever met.

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July 7th 2012

A view of the dry and barren landscape. If my memory serves me correctly, I saw a fox of sorts at some time out there. Because of the heat I had to stop as often as possible to get out of the sun and heat. There were a couple of times I really didn’t think I was going to make it through this heat as I was getting physically ill and sick. At one point there was a short stretch of homes with refridgerated coolers along the street. I pulled over to buy cold water and a man behind me got mad at the kid for trying to rip me off. After thanking the man, I bought two.

I spent a lot of time in bus stops in Uzbekistan…a lot. Sometimes with company, human or animals, and others alone. I’ve had cold beverages and even ice cream delivered to me. To all the wanderers going through Central Asia, sit down for a little while and enjoy those bus stops. It was definitely one of the highlights of Central Asia.

After an absolutely exhausting and draining day of heat and riding I catch myself getting caught on a pass at dusk. So the genius I am decided to sleep here. Let me just state that I slept horribly and I woke up with a fine layer of dirt over everything. It’s all part of the adventure and experience…and I would of regretted not taking this opportunity.

July 8th morning:
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View from the road.

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Today would mark the first and last time I attempted to truck surf up a mountain. The road was in awful condition and I hung onto the back of a dumptruck. It was just too precarious and unsafe so I let go after a little while. I remember seeing a train engine on top of the mountain cliff…it really perplexed me and no I didn’t take a photo. I was absolutely drained.

I would ride through some sand dunes on the side of the road that kids were playing in. I pulled over for a little while to spend some time with them but then carried on and would end up being invited into a garden to sleep for the evening. The people were beyond wonderful and they could tell how exhausted I was as I was nearly falling asleep as I was eating. They gave me a platform to sleep and I remembering falling asleep listening to them talk, watching the sun set through a crop field. Another image in my memory I can’t seem to wipe clean. There is no way a photograph could of captured what my eyes saw at that moment and no way would these words come close to conveying the emotions I had.

July 9th morning I would wake up well before everyone and be on my way and hopefully arrive in Dushanbe by the day’s end.

The view of where I lived the previous evening:

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The last 15 kilometers of Uzbekistan was not enjoyable, besides watching women shake the fruit trees and the children popping birds out of the sky with sling shots. It was so hot.

Then there was this boy on a bicycle. He wouldn’t leave me alone. After about 5 minutes of him harassing me I stop, get off my bike and starting chasing him screaming. A car pulls up to me asking me what the problem was and I try to explain that the boy wouldn’t leave me alone. I’m hot, tired, and I don’t know how much more of men I can deal with. I can’t recount the exact day but I had a beer can thrown at me from a car window going up a hill that was under construction and riding in loose gravel. Cars were riding so close behind me that if I were to spill I would of been immediately run over. The constant sexual harassment from men and if they weren’t harassing me I could see in their eyes what they were thinking. I wanted to get to Tajikistan without any more problems.

There were also some really great men, the majority were very kind to me. Like everywhere, the countryside and common man is generally harmless.

I get to the border and the Russian speaking Uzbek border guard demands to go through all my bags including my netbook. I had been warned of this and played by her rules and continually explaining to her repeated question, “what is this”, “what is this”?

Going through the Tajik border control I get to the other side and go into a cafe to eat and rest…and debate on hitching a ride with one of the dozens of taxis on the border.

After a couple of hours of sitting in the shade mulling over my decision I decided to talk to a taxi with a station wagon. We await for more people going to Dushanbe and when they arrive, we leave. I was extremely happy with my decision as the road was under construction and would of easily taken me another day.

Being let off at the only guest house in Dushanbe, I open the door to see a yard of over a dozen tents and an overwhelming amount of people. The not so nice cyclists from Samarkand arrive almost right after me and I admit to hitching a ride for the last stretch. Of course I get shit for this but you know what…don’t judge me. I know they had only been on the road for 3 months at this time and knew nothing about me nor knew what it was like to travel as a solo woman. A man with Ural would hassle me a bit about it too…but after my shower he and I would spend a few hours chatting. Interestingly enough, our chatting has continued for 2 years and I just Skyped with him this morning. You can read about his adventures here: http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=923656

To be continued…

It’s now mid July and I’m planning on doing a month adventure in the next few months. I’m awaiting to hear back about a bid on a job that will arrange my schedule accordingly.

Also, I’m looking to do another Kickstarter to continue some projects in Bangladesh.

Again, thanks to all of you, old and new fans, for following along and all the support over the years. I’m not sure where I would be without all of you.

LOVE!

Uzbekistan, Part 4: Bukhara to Samarkand (June 21st – June 26 2012)

Arriving to Bukhara by ten o’clock am, as I had been on the road since 4 am because of the previous night’s assault.

I arrive into the city center and begin looking for hotels in the area. Roaming around and around and around in the heat, I feel myself coming to a near collapse. My cure for most ailments is ice cream and a cold soda.

Walking over to a market where I can refill my SIM card so I can access Google Maps and grab an ice cream.

Sitting on the curb in the shade, trying to regain my since of my direction, I notice how ill I’m beginning to feel.

A young Uzbek comes up to me and tries to speak with me in broken English. He offers me a cold Coca Cola in a glass bottle and we sit trying to communicate about the usual basics. I finish the soda and he offers me another with exclaiming I should wait as he wants to show me something.

He returns with a laptop that appears to have a bootleg video playing. I can hear the vague sound of English and realize he’s grinning at me as he’s showing me pornography. Setting the soda down, I say thanks and leave.

Very kind locals help me navigate through the historic part of Bukhara to find a hotel. The first one I try I notice it’s all women around and taking care of the business matters. After the past couple days this is exactly what I want and need. I pay the basic fee for at least three nights, load my belongings into a small and simple room and literally collapse. Physically exhausted. Something much more than fatigue and my body is not feeling right. It is reminiscent of the days of dysentery but my head feels messed up as well.

For the remaining of the day and into the night I’m drinking my emergency supply of drink supplements for dehydration. It’s the only thing I can think of since I’ve been in the desert for so long with the blazing heat down on me ever day.

Once it cools down a bit and think I can actually leave the room, with no appetite, I walk out to the center area of the old town to refill my water supply. Walking back to my room I see a young man with a touring bike talking to a local girl. It’s been ages since I’ve seen another cyclist and of course introduce myself and we begin chatting.

His name is Chris-Alexandre of www.allschoolproject.ch

He is stuck in Bukhara for about another week as he was bit by a dog and tending to his rabies shots. Both of us are ill, him from the rabies treatment and me from whatever I’m suffering from. (It turns out that many cyclists will get sick in Bukhara, and Uzbekistan in general, and we hear it may have something to do with the cooking in cotton oil and our bodies not being able to process it.)

A little site seeing in Bukhara as I don’t have plans for staying as it’s extremely touristy and I want to be back on the road. I have also been spoiled by kind strangers helping me and in Bukhara I’m scammed by a man who wants to show me around. This post is starting to sound like a lot of negative things so I’d like to not go into detail as Uzbekistan is still one of my favorite countries and the hospitality I was shown was some of the best.

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It was great spending a few days with Chris-Alex and making plans to meet back up in Samarkand. He had befriended a wonderful young local woman that sold her paintings and her mother had another shop of porcelains and souvenirs. I would end up buying a few of her paintings for Christmas gifts.

I would leave Bukhara on the morning of the 24th of July, 2012.

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…and OF COURSE, by now you’ve learned I do anything I possibly can to not take the beaten path.

It’s a little difficult to navigate to the small road I found on the map but locals help direct me at a busy intersection on the edge of town. Of course I’ve gotten a bit of a late start and the sun is beating down on me and I can feel my body weakening under the desert sun. As I approach the small road for the turn off after about an hour of riding, a car pulls up to me and pours out cold water from a thermos. Sitting here, writing this nearly two years later, this memory is still so vivid. I remember how amazing the cold water felt in my mouth and going down my throat, almost as if dropping my body temperature by a few degrees. Their smiles and waves will never be forgotten; they helping out a stranger and guest in their country and me being so thankful for such a gracious and simple act of kindness. Cold, clean water. That may have been one of the most memorable drinks of water of my life.

Before finding camp that evening, I had a nice man offer me to come watch a football (soccer) game with him. If my memory serves me correctly, it was the World Cup and is quite popular everywhere in the world. After being in a touristy city for a few days, I politely decline, and fantasize about being all alone once again in my tent.

I am now all alone on the golden road to Samarkand.
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The Golden Road to Samarkand by James Elroy Flecker
HASSAN:
Sweet to ride forth at evening from the wells,
When shadows pass gigantic on the sand,
And softly through the silence beat the bells
Along the Golden Road to Samarkand.
ISHAK:
We travel not for trafficking alone;
By hotter winds our fiery hearts are fanned:
For lust of knowing what should not be known
We take the Golden Road to Samarkand.
MASTER OF THE CARAVAN:
Open the gate, O watchman of the night!
THE WATCHMAN:
Ho, travellers, I open. For what land
Leave you the dim-moon city of delight?
MERCHANTS (with a shout):
We take the Golden Road to Samarkand!
(The Caravan passes through the gate)
THE WATCHMAN (consoling the women):
What would ye, ladies? It was ever thus.
Men are unwise and curiously planned.
A WOMAN:
They have their dreams, and do not think of us.
VOICES OF THE CARAVAN (in the distance singing):
We take the Golden Road to Samarkand.

On the morning of the 25th I would wake up as the sun begins peaking above the horizon. The golden rays turning the sky from black to blue and there is complete silence and stillness of the air. I would sit on my hilltop looking into the countryside contemplating life, feelings; truly living in the present moment and being so thankful to be where I was. On my chosen hillside for camp, a shepherd would greet me as I finish packing up my gear and we make a little small talk. Waving goodbye, I’m on the road just as dawn breaks.

Later in the afternoon I would be sitting on the side of the road looking out into cotton fields.

A boy comes up to me and starts trying to speak to me in English. He leaves. He then returns with his mother and younger brother. I remember her being beautiful and she refused to let me take her photo. The three of us sat on the side of the road together for about an hour just staring out into the fields and talking on occasion. They would leave for the late afternoon nap, and I’m left alone again, but not for too long.

A car pulls up and 4 men exit. I’m asked if I’m French and I say “no”. Then the jokester puts his hands on his hips and starts thrusting his pelvis back and forth while saying “sex sex sex”. I’m utterly disgusted and get up and leave.

At night fall I would go into a cafe hoping they would let me sleep outside after I eat and pay for my dinner. The usual questions are asked but I’m not invited for a stay and see no women around anyhow. It probably wouldn’t be the best after this streak of luck I’ve been having.

I ride my bike into the night for about an hour until I see a cleared field. Pushing my bike down through a ditch and heaving it over dried grass, I walk about 2 kilometers from the street. I throw my tent up in just a matter of minutes and collapse.

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The afternoon of June 26th 2012 I would arrive in Samarkand.

Tibet and Xinjiang

Until Friday, April 18th 2014, I am making a newly published eBook available for free! It’s an electronic version of “Life on the Tibetan Plateau”. This e-version has an added bonus of the text that was printed in the Brooks Bugle.

You can download from here: Life on the Tibetan Plateau

Also, last week a collection of 139 Uyghur photographs were published into an eBook as well. You can download by visiting: Uyghur

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Partners

I knew the day was coming upon me, for the second time. The last week has been fleeting memories of riding with the Belgian brothers, Matthieu and Lucas of NESW by Bike. Walking outside today with a short sleeve shirt on and remembering walking along snow and ice with frozen boots, over the Irkeshtam Pass…freezing.

There is something about cycling with someone, or a pair of brothers, that is very special and a bond that will last forever. I can even hear their voices echoing in my thoughts today. But there is something even more special of a bond when you work together as a team to make it through some of the toughest days I’ve seen. It was not the first risky place I’d been, and surely not the last, although my tour would only continue for about 5 months afterwards.

I’ve cycled with a total of 4 men, and each one of them has a special place in my heart. The first went on for 6 weeks and the last would be only 3 days, although we would spend a lot of time stuck in Dushanbe together. The word “partner” means something to me that most people can not define and I can’t with words. Even now, one years and 4 months from my temporary retirement, the idea of “relationship”, “partner”, “friend” take on a completely different meaning.

A partner is someone that encourages you to excel, encourages you to push beyond those barriers set only by yourself, encourages you to live your dream and passion even if it may mean they are absent during those times. Not just someone to help carry the water, the gear, or fix a puncture or set up camp. A partner is someone you can go an entire day without speaking and then under a star filled sky, you share your personal epiphanies that were dreamed up during the day. Excitement in each other’s voices, recognizing where these thoughts come from…deep within the wandering soul…searching for something more within themselves and the world. Respect for one another and appreciation of the differences that in all reality, make the team that much stronger.

There are a few men I encountered along my travels that I never cycled with or spent time with on the road…and these few are still very special to me. The ones I can write to when I’m bogged down with “reality”, when I am having a hard time finding my footing, a relationship between two people that remind one another of their strength’s. They are also the ones I can write to when I have exciting news or something happening in my life and they share my excitement. We share excitement through emails and Skype of our future plans, or map purchases, or just the simple act of discussing dinner plans.

Sure, if I were to sum up my trip I would say it’s when I learned to love myself. But, I also learned what it’s like to care about and love strangers, just for the simple fact we are all looking for something more in our life, in the universe. Whether we are on 2 wheels, in a bus, walking, hitch-hiking…we all know there is something more out there for us. We’ve chosen an unconventional path to find the answers in our life and as a group of dirtbags, misfits, hobos, gypsies…it’s our duty to help our partners when we see struggle.

Let’s put down that ego of who has cycled the furthest, the most countries, the highest peak, who has done it solo or with a girlfriend or boyfriend. Who cares if they take a bus, who cares if they fly somewhere, who cares if the bike is thrown on the back of a lorry for a day, who cares? Why should anyone care about how someone else wants to conduct their journey? Surely, we all know, there are those that are out for the records and the glory but that’s not my game nor for the company I keep. We do it because we all need answers…we all having a burning desire…a curiosity that MUST be answered within this lifetime.

One of my biggest pieces of advice, for solo travelers especially, is to keep these people you will meet on the road close to your heart. When you return home you will need these people and they will need you. The partnership will never end, the bond is tighter than any chain that my bicycle has ever had rotating around that steel drive train.

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