Around the world for Spark of Life
China and Pakistan 2019 - August 23 through September 16.
Long distance bike touring has been a passion of mine since my late-thirties and over the past decade or so I have completed rides including Dublin Ireland to Shanghai China, Perth to Melbourne, Hanoi to Ho Chi Min Vietnam, Lhasa Tibet to Kathmandu Nepal, Bogata Columbia to Chiclayo Peru in South America and Casablanca Morocco to Louyanne in the Western Sahara. A trip basically consists of landing at an airport, unpacking my bike and equipment and hitting the road. I am on the road for 4-6 weeks, averaging around 120km per day and follow maps to larger towns or cities so I can find a hotel for the night. Once a trip is completed I box up my bike and fly back home. I do carry a small one-man tent for emergencies and as a last resort I will take this option. I have slept at bus stops, people’s houses, a mosque and a couple of other unusual places. Bike travel is not for everyone but for me it is the most rewarding way to see the world. The highlights are endless but the interaction with the local people on the way is by far the most enjoyable aspect of bike touring. The look on someone’s face when you arrive in a town or village on a bike is priceless!! No matter what country I have been in the beauty of human nature remains the same. Contrary to what our beliefs are about other nationalities my experiences have all been positive and my conclusion is that people all around the globe want exactly the same thing!! Peace, laughter, health and a better life for their children.
My mother Althea spent the last 10 years of her life with severe Dementia. During Althea’s final five years she was unable to talk or recognise family members and friends. It was hard to watch mum live this way especially when in your late sixties you should be living a full and productive life. The experience of mum’s dementia certainly had an effect on how I looked at life and how it should be lived. As the saying goes “life is short” and we need to pursue or follow the things that mean something to us. The around the world ride satisfies my personal need for travel and passion for new experiences. Along the way I came across the Spark of Life Philosophy to Dementia and could see that this profound philosophy would have made the world of difference to my mother’s life. I then decided to dedicate my ride to raising money for the Dementia Foundation for Spark of Life. This foundation raises funds to alleviate the emotional suffering and ignites the spirit of people with dementia, their families and carers so all can experience life to their fullest potential. The Foundation’s vision is a new and different future for people with dementia and those who support them, where society's attitude to dementia is transformed so that people with dementia are appreciated for their contributions and their zest for life returned. I am getting better at taking photos as I travel and have decided to set up a fundraising page where I will post photos and detail parts of my trip. 100% of funds will go to Spark of Life so I warmly invite you to check out the site and donate.
The attraction to navigating my way on a bicycle through a completely different culture has hit me again. After a couple of months of finalising visas and working out the finer details it’s all systems go for a trip that I’m very excited about. The Karakoram highway has for many centuries been a big part of the Silk Road lifeline between China and the sub-Continent. It’s a little less of an adventurer’s paradise as opposed to 20 years ago as the Chinese government have paved the road the whole way and the route has been cycled before.
I have spent quite a few of my birthdays on the road and this year will be no different. August and September means the extreme heat of mid-summer has passed and the snowfall and bitter cold have not arrived in the Northern hemisphere. The route for this year will take me up and over the Pakistan Himalayas known as the Karakoram Mountain range and my 56th birthday is in early September so I will schedule a day off somewhere in the mountains of the Karakoram.
Starting off in the far southwest corner of China at a city called Kashgar the ride will cover around 1300kms with my final destination Islamabad, Pakistan. The first week will be pretty much all uphill to the border and a highlight for me will be pedalling up and over the Khunjerab Pass which is the highest border crossing in the world at 4693 meters. After a grinding 400kms uphill the remainder of the route should get a little easier with only a few higher passes as I head down back down to Islamabad at 550 meters altitude. The first part of the journey will be sparsely populated so a couple of nights camping will be required. Lake Karakul on the way up has a few locals living in Yurts and my investigations read that it is possible to stay with locals so really looking forward to that. Once I cross the border it should get a little easier to find places to sleep.
Kashgar to Khunjerab Pass elevation gain 3420 meters (Mt Kosciusko 2228 meters above sea level) the first part of the ride will equate to riding from Sydney (sea level) to Kosciusko (summit) one and a half times. Peace, laughter, health and a better life for our children.
Bike travel is not for everyone but for me it is the most rewarding way to see the world. The highlights are endless but the interaction with the local people on the way is by far the most enjoyable aspect of bike touring. The look on someone’s face when you arrive in a town or village on a bike is priceless!! No matter what country I have been in the beauty of human nature remains the same. Contrary to what our beliefs are about other nationalities my experiences have all been positive and my conclusion is that people all around the globe want exactly the same thing!! Peace, laughter, health and a better life for their children.