It’s approaching one year since I left my home to cycle across the world. With many ups and downs along the way without a doubt my fondest memories of my trip will be the people. The people made my trip what is was, a life changing experience. I owe them so much and will never forget those that took in a dirty, hungry cyclist and gave me a place to sleep for the night and fed me.
The world is not dangerous, it has its problems of course but from my experiences people are friendly and want to help you if you need it.
Here are some of my favourite memories from the trip.
The Turkish man who threw my shoes off a cliff.
Like your favourite jeans that are falling apart and not wanting to throw them away, my cycling through Europe wore down my trainers. I didn’t want to throw them away, I used duct tape to fix the holes and it was working pretty well.
Cycling into a petrol station I was greeted with the usual friendless that I had experienced in Turkey. Everyone gathered outside and looked at my bike asking me questions to which I could not respond. Then a Turkish mans eyes were fixed on my shoes. He suddenly got up ripped my shoes off my feet and walked to the edge of the cliff and threw them off. Speechless. Totally speechless, I now had no shoes to cycle in, no shoes to walk in nothing.
Looking pleased with what he had done he gestured ‘no good’. They might have been no good but it’s better than having no shoes! The man disappeared and I was left wondering how I was going to cycle the 20-kms to the next town barefoot! The man came back with another pair of shoes and gave them to me. They were the kind of shoes you’d wear to the office at work. Thankfully they were in my size and pretty comfortable to cycle in. The Turkish man looked so proud of what he did like watching son grandson score the winning goal in a football match. He repeatedly gave me the thumbs up grinning like a Cheshire cat.
Thank you for my new shoes. I’ll never forget you throwing my trainers off the cliff.
The little shy boy who gave me some apples
Turkey is great for cycling, you will find water sources a few times a day to rest and escape the heat and re-hydrate. This is what I was doing when a farmer pulled up in his tractor , we exchanged nods and I continued to rest and drink water. His son about 6 years old got down from the tractor and walked over. His hands were too small so he was using his shirt to carry something. He walked over and was too shy to look at me, he was carrying about 20 tiny apples and gave them to me and rushed back to his father who gave me another nod and drove off. So lovely.
The gang that woke me up in the middle of the night and took me to their home
This was one of the scariest experiences of my life and ended up being one of the most amazing. It taught me a valuable lesson, leave your preconceptions at home. I have written about this experience before. It’s still one of my favourite memories of the trip.
The Iranian who gave up his money, time and house to help a stranger cross off his to-do list.
After arriving in Tabriz and being kicked out of a park for trying to camp I wondered around the city in search for a cheap hotel. With no map of the city I was left with the directions of the Iranian people. They were very happy to help and drew me maps to guide me. Unfortunately, they had all pointed me towards the 4-star and 5 star hotels which I couldn’t afford. I walked to the desk in the 5 star hotel and told the women that I was lost and I was looking for a cheaper hotel. She was very helpful and gave me a map of the city and drew arrows towards the cheaper hotels. While I was making my way an Iranian ran up to me and asked the usual questions, Where are you from? Are you travelling on bike? etc. After 2 minutes of conversation he asked if I needed a place to stay for the night. I responded yes and told me to follow him. Carrying on our conversation he suggested that I must be hungry and took me out and paid for my meal. I visited his friend and I learnt more about Iranian life and the hardships that he and his family have been through. I was escorted via a taxi to his house and given a place to stay for night. The next morning he asked what I needed to do, since Central Asia was my next stop I had to get all my visa preparation sorted. He made me his number one priority and helped me all day to cross off my to do list, took me to restaurants when I was hungry and just looked after a stranger for no other reason than he wanted to. He asked for nothing in return and gave up so much for a person that was in his life for 36 hours. Thank you.
I don’t even know where to begin with this one. Every time I think or someone says Central Asia I grin. I cannot say enough good things about this place and it remains my favourite region I have ever been to. From messy Vodka sessions, trading my cycling partner for a car, gold teeth galore to unbelievable hospitality, Central Asia had it all and more.
A beer on a mountain and a welcome to Tajikistan
While getting our asses up the Pamir Highway, a car drove past and stopped about 500m from where we were. Tired, confused it’s natural to slip into paranoia, it’s a defense system. The man got out his car and went to the boot of the car and opened it. ‘ What’s he doing?’ We cycled on and until we got closer, ‘What’s he getting from his boot?” We cycled closer and he turned around with a beer a huge smile and a Welcome to Tajikistan! Gave us the beer smiled and drove off. Amazing. I feel my experiences wouldn’t have been so enjoyable if it wasn’t for one person, my cycle partner through Central Asia, Jilly of Sherlock Tales. Cycling through the Pamir Highway and sleeping under tunnels freezing our asses off while being read the luxuries of what Kashgar had to offer was some of the best times of my life and a massive thanks goes to Jilly for helping create those amazing experiences.
Cycling the Pamir Highway in winter
The family that ate our leftovers
Along the Pamir Highway, every now and again you come across a house with a family, given the friendliness of the locals we had no hesitation in asking if we could stay with them. They accepted. They served us tea and started cooking food. They fed us yak liver and other strange meats. After eating without a care in the world it wasn’t until we were full and had some leftovers that the family then started eating our leftovers. It suddenly dawned on us that they had given their owns meals to us and now were left with our leftovers! I felt like shit. This is the kind of hospitality of Central Asia. The morning we tried to give them $10 for their amazing hospitality, they refused at first but eventually we got them to take the money and felt slightly better about eating their dinner!
Being ‘rented’ in China
After a month in the cold and the mountains I arrived in Kashgar, China. During this time I had another serious challenge that I wasn’t yet aware of. One week into resting I checked my bank balance. £250 left! Shit! I don’t have money to finish this trip! My head was battered with what to do, do I fly home raise the money and fly back? Deep down I knew that wasn’t an option as I cut myself off from the UK and don’t have the desire to live there anymore. I need to keep going, but how? How I can live for 4 months on £250? That’s £2 a day! Given the fact that I just can’t budget this wasn’t an option. I needed to make some money, but how? During a random conversation with a German hitchhiker called Alex he told me of something that stuck in my mind, ‘rent a foreigner’. I did a quick Google search and China do rent foreigners. I got lucky, after a few emails I was told about a job in Chongqing for 6 months. Although I had a job description I later found out that I was hired to do nothing. Simply stand there in a suit and be white. I think I can handle that! I ended up being rented in the 8th China (Chongqing) Int’l Garden Expo in southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality to push forward the landscape greening and the building of a more favorable living condition and ecological construction.
The children of Laos
SABAIDEE!!! SABIDEE!! The children of Laos were incredible. From pushing me and my bike up the hills to running along beside for kms at a time up the hills the children of Laos are amazing. Videos here and here.
Without a doubt one the best new years parties I have ever been to. A 3 day water fight, locals drive around in their pick up trucks armed to the teeth with water-guns and buckets of water. What I loved about this was the respect. While getting a dose of talc on your cheeks it wasn’t slapped on it was very gently added to your soaking face. Even the police got involved, they had no choice as they drove past they would get totally soaked and talced. They were prepared though, their guns and walkie talkies had plastic waterproof covers. Love it. Something I don’t think could happen in the UK without things getting out of control somewhat. With so many other stories from this adventure these are some of my favourites and will stay with me forever. I owe a huge thanks to the people on this trip who have helped me (thousands) and to people back home, my family and friends and to other travellers like Jilly and Ant & Kate and so many more. Thank you to everyone for making this the best year of my life.
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