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Facing the enemy within:
The wind is howling and black clouds are becoming angry. Tim and Cindie are slowly riding up steep switchbacks leading into snowcapped mountains. While riding at 4,400 m (14,400 feet) well above tree line in a barren rocky landscape, Cindie suddenly pulls over and starts crying and gasping for air.
Cindie (sitting on the side of the road and crying uncontrollably): "I am wet, cold, and I can not breathe! Leave me here and push on. We are going to die up here. Humans can not survive at this altitude!
Tim: "Cindie, pull yourself together! I am never going to leave you anywhere. We will have to keep it together if we are going to get off this mountain without freezing to death. It looks like it could rain or snow again and getting wet now, at this altitude, would be dangerous. This is no time to freak out!
Cindie fighting for air: "I can't breathe I want to go home, I can't take this anymore, I can't breathe!"
Tim suppressing the urge to ask her exactly where home is these days: "In this altitude you can breathe. We met sheep herders in Peru who lived in stone houses at this altitude. You will have to calm down before you can catch your breath. We only have another 400 meters (1,300 feet) to climb to reach the top then we coast down the other side.
Cindie calming down and catching her breath but still feeling dizzy: "That's just it; I do not know what is on the other side of that mountain, or the next, and forever. You don't either. We never know what is in front of us. Almost everyday of our lives we are some place we have not been before; complete strangers. I feel so lost. Tell me; what is over this huge mountain?
Tim wanting to continue to distract Cindie: "Somewhere over this mountain are the green valleys of Yunnan (China). It will be harvest time and cold season vegetables will be sold fresh everywhere. I can taste the peas, onions, spinach, and broccoli now (they had not eaten much more than yak butter, yak meat, and potatoes during their 6 week tour of the high mountains). After that we will ride through the jungles of Laos and experience another country that time has forgot. The whole world is waiting for us on the other side of this mountain. Do you know how lucky we are to have such an opportunity before us. Lets go get it!
Cindie breathing easy know: OK, What do we do now?
Tim: I am going to take your heaviest two bags (he already had her entire load from her rack) and tie them to my bike and we are going to get over this mountain and into those low warm valleys of Yunnan.
After two hours of grinding up hill including many stops to catch their breath they reached the top. On the way up water bottles froze and the snow started to fall. The valley they coasted down to was not in Yunnan or even low enough to be warm but they camped among hardwood trees yellowing brightly in the crisp autumn air. Cindie warmed herself by a campfire and made dinner (yak meat and instant noodles) while Tim collected firewood and water from a nearby creek. A Tibetan nomad walked by their camp and said "Yah She Da Lay" which is hello in the Tibetan language. After dinner Cindie read the Laos guidebook and dreamed of monks in flowing orange robes gliding around steamy mysterious temples.
OK, this will probably never appear on TV but it is a memory that I will replay whenever someone asks me about hard times. I thought it would be a good way to open this letter and impress on you what traveling through the "rooftop of the world" can be like. This was one of the most difficult moments (physically) of our nearly 4 years on the road. We survived and the majority of days were enjoyable. We had the pleasure of traveling on the ground floor of an exotic culture and quirky lifestyle that a remote location and harsh climate can produce. In short, it was "really out there". Now, when I hear the word "Tibet" I will have an image of herds of yaks being pushed along by brightly robed monks with snow capped mountains behind them. The memory of Cindie freaking out will also creep in because that was part of the journey as well. Some things look better in the rear view mirror.
Because I am still in China I can not write the whole story like I prefer. I will have to wait until I write this chapter of our upcoming Asia book. If the wrong thing gets said I will be blocked from accessing our web site. If I were to post my complete thoughts and stories they would probably find me and throw me in jail. This country needs a 1960's like movement.
Someday I will ride across the entire Tibetan Plateau. The section we just completed only included a slice of it. Next time, I will bring warmer clothes, sleeping bag and a tent meant for winter and snow. Many cyclists have ridden the Hong Kong to Katmandu route. Cindie has decided that she will never return to extreme high altitude bike touring. She told me to go ALONE across Tibet and Nepal and she will spent that time with her sister in Alaska. I do not believe that she could ever pass up on an adventure. It will be at least 5 years from now before this option will become available. First we plan to continue on to Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia and then finally take our time in Australia and New Zealand. Hong Kong to Katmandu sounds like a good way to get to India. Will she call my bluff and watch me leave?
One of my favorite bike touring web sites is http://www.biketouring. I read it often because there is fresh information that keeps me in the loop about advances in the sport. I was surprised to learn that it is only one year old. When I look around the site it seems like it has been adding content for years. For biketouring101.com's first birthday they are having a contest. There are many wonderful prizes including four of our books The Road That Has No End: How we traded our ordinary lives for a global bicycle touring adventure. This is a great honor. Thank you Biketouring101 very much for including us in your contest!
I encourage everyone to take a look at this informative site and enter the contest. Our book is just one of many prizes. So, if you already have a copy of our book you can request a different prize.
From the Biketouring101 contest page.
There are two questions in the writing contest section. Each question is a separate subsection and will be judged independently.
"My best day of bicycle touring was ......"
"The most embarrassing thing to happen to me during a bicycle touring adventure was...."
Each submission must be between 300 and 500 words in length.
You can go directly to the contest page by using the link below. Hurry because the contest ends soon.
That is all for now. Happy Thanksgiving to our readers in the USA.
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SE Asia / China
I have used several brands of bicycle panniers and
highly recommend Ortlieb.
See Why I switched to Ortlieb waterproof Panniers?
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