I graduated university with a degree in Environmental Engineering and decided I'd rather travel than work in an office for the time being. That being said I'm committed to addressing environmental problems and subsequently social problems. I've always been a traveler at heart and for a number of reasons I find myself typically traveling the road less travelled and frequently getting by on creativity, resourcefulness and patience more than anything else. I often look to do things differently and while my adventurous side relishes in this, I often find myself cursing my youthful naive judgement.
Currently, you find me in the Himalayas where I've often dreamt of bicycle touring. I ended up here finishing up field work in Bhutan. So I went to Siliguri India, a dump of a city, spent a week finding a bike, and I've now set off. Ofcourse having no tools, bike gear, and having never cycle toured is adding up to again a foolish youthful adventure. I hope you enjoy my foolhardy travel stories...

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Beauiful Ride, Long Bus trip, and failed brakes as I head to Bhutan.

After the long awaited visa approval from Bhutan arrived, I quickly packed my bags, loaded my cycle and said goodbye to my new friends in Darjeeling. Tim rode with me along an old forest road for half the day as I descended back to the Indian plains. The old road weaved through the Himalayan foothills through a nature reserve boasting waterfalls, lush green pastures and tall Japanese cedars. This made for a beautiful ride and we stopped for lunch in a small town up in the forests where we were likely the only white cyclists to have ever passed through. Hand gestures and pigeon English got us two bowls of noodle soup and our fill of the local peanut butter candies.

After lunch I hit the main road which drops 2000meters of altitude in just a few kilometers. This steep road was washed out in places and almost never paved due to the hard rains of the monsoon season. I road in places where the road was a river almost knee deep with the muddy runoff. The thunder and lightning intensified the storm which was dropping so much rain I could hardly see 20ft down the road at times. True to monsoon in an hour it had cleared up and I was almost down the hill. My cheap indian bike had burned up so much of the brakes that I had to stop and adjust them every 15 minutes. Finally the pads wore through and I was forced to rotate the brakes and use my feet as I nursed by way down the hill and heard the grinding of metal as the worn out pads scrapped the rims. Just a few kilometers from the flats with a pop the brakes gave way entirely. I was hungry and tires and soaked to the bone.

Unfortunately, this section of the highways only had traffic going up the hill and with sunset quickly approaching I had a real dilemma: I could walk to Siliguri but that would take hours or I could try and flag down a truck heading back up the hill and get a taxi down the next day. With determination I decided I would walk towards a cross-roads I was told was just a few kilometers away and try my luck at getting a ride into Siliguri. Right as my spirits were dwindling and I was panicking that traffic would stop going even up the hills I flagged down the only car heading into Siliguri that I'd seen in almost an hour. Much relieved I took the local tuk-tuk the long way into Siliguri, passing though many little towns on the way, each with their cycle repair shop busy with repairs and the local metal worker welding up gates and fencing.

From Siliguri I wrangled two bikes and a giant bag full of presents and bike parts to the bus station and took a very bumpy ride to the Bhutan border. I was sitting in the very back of the bus and on a few of the bumps I litterly caught air with no part of my body touching the seat until I was appruply slammed back into my seat with the rise of the next pothole.

Arriving in bhutan I was quite quickly greeted with the hospitality that makes Bhutan feel like home. The immigration officer walked me to a hotel and negotiated the local rate on my behalf. After his shift I was invited back to his apartment were I ate dinner with him and exchanged stories of our respective homes. Up early again I headed off to get my bus to Thimphu and drugged up for the windy bus ride. Winding up into the hills, past villages perched on green pasture mountain tops and cascading water falls the welcome back to bhutan was beautiful. I arrived yesterday in Thimphu, 3 days of travel, more than a couple airborn bus seat rides, and a full day of cycling and brake mending. I was wiped! Chhimi's inlaws invited me in and I spent the night relearning Dzongka and trying to communicate with them as best I could. Today its running around the city after all the letters and applications required for my work visa, bank account and trying to get an apartment.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Nathan. I rode through the Kathnmandu Valley and hit some pretty bad roads- basically gravel and stone trenches. BUt you're definitely more hard core than I am! I usually prefer flat roads and definitely heat rather than cold. Enjoy more of your travels! cheers, Lash