‘What?’ seems the next obvious question. But before I share my plan, let me tell you about this blog:
I want to post truth: true stories and thoughts; mine and from those I meet – neither contrived magazine article, nor heartless report, nor thoughtless travelogue, rather a sort of dusty but coherent reality – a few pointillist dots to add to your own pictures of Asia. I hope.
I’m starting badly though as this piece will undoubtedly be false!
We all know reality will choose its own path. We know too it will be infinitely more detailed than any plan, let alone this skeletal affair (maybe I should just call this a ‘living document’ to deflect attention from having put too little work into it?). In any case, please forgive any eventual untruth in this post and, in this era of ‘post truth’, consider this a sort of pre-truth – the inevitably false reality described in any plan or prediction.
On to the plan itself: Predominantly by bicycle, I hope to explore from the south of India up through into China and then on into Mongolia: Bangalore, Beijing and Ulan Bator. (Actually, Trivandrum, being further south than Bangalore, will be my starting point but lacks that alliterative ring!)
I have not planned a route – my intention is to listen to the advice of locals, follow historically significant paths of migration, invasion, pilgrimage or geographical features while allowing curiosity to propel me off track. Hopefully that will be enough.
Nevertheless, I have thought about distance and timing a little: as the Indian Jungle Crow flies, this journey is approximately 4000 miles though that includes pedalling for a time across the Bay of Bengal – wetter even than the monsoon rains. A few minutes extra diligence, throwing some interesting sounding places into google maps, suggests a journey of ~6000 miles in each of India and China (plenty of zigzagging) and a nice 700 mile sprint finish to Ulan Bator looks a little more realistic.
How long will this take? Well, all the way around the world is ~24900 miles, but a Guinness World Record round the world trip requires ‘only’ 18000 miles of cycling and that record stands at 123 days…and 43 minutes. Record breaking pace therefore gets me back home in time for Pimms at Wimbledon – a lower bound of sorts, though I imagine I might take a little longer.
Instead, assuming 50 miles per day, 5 days a week requires ~1 year for the total distance. In (pre-)truth, I expect to travel a little further – I will be exploring rather than bee-lining – and this doesn’t yet account for getting lost! 18 months therefore sounds plausible and 2 years seems a decent upper bound.
But…I am not fit: aside from some yoga (culturally relevant perhaps but physically more tenuously connected) I have not done any preparation. Consequently, the first (aching) leg of my journey will likely be slower, say 30 miles per day. Luckily, Chennai is a wiggly 600 miles from Trivandrum so that will do nicely, for now, as my first way-point.
I still have the looming question of how to get into China: up through Pakistan’s north along the Karakoram highway (Beautiful but is it safe?), over the Nepalese Himalayas and in to Tibet (ideal though is it legally possible?) or through Assam and Myanmar (with a jaunt in to Northern Laos perhaps?). Advice welcome!
Lastly, some other practicalities:
Safety – Take little, be discreet, have emergency numbers. Most importantly try to provoke curiosity and interest not fear or greed. People may seem my biggest threat (especially when paired with a car) but they will, I expect, also be my greatest help – and undoubtedly provide the most interesting stories.
Accommodation – I have a tent, rupees in my pocket, and I intend to smile. Some combination should provide me with places to sleep.
Food – I can make a beer can stove and have a mess tin. However, chai stalls and good cheap street food are certainly easier and apparently ubiquitous, though sometimes also…which brings me too…
Health – I will almost certainly get ill. I will let you know!