November 5, 2013 by Rob Gardiner
For the last seven months I have slowly been working my way eastwards, but as I write this, I’m hurtling westwards; undoing all those kilometres in a mere five hundredth of that time. Fear not, though. This is not the end for the Tourient Express. Just a pause, in order to rest and recuperate. Cycling is not over for me. My desire to explore the world on two wheels still burns strong. But those flames have been dampened by the weariness that has begun to weigh heavily upon my body and mind.
Everyone knows that travelling can be tough, particularly when you are alone. (Although, as I keep telling people, I have rarely been properly alone during the past couple of months.) That is why I have a simple safety mechanism to stop myself making impulsive or misguided decisions. Whenever I feel down, exhausted, or just start to feel like maybe I need a change of scene, I tell myself to wait for a day or two and see how I feel then. I tell myself that I always have time, so what is the rush? Everyone has these moments and, normally, within a few hours those feelings have completely evaporated.
However, recently a weariness began to set in that did not evaporate after a few hours, or even a few days. Travelling is exhausting and, whilst I can honestly say that I still felt like I was happy, I felt a fatigue sapping at my reserves. The joy I got from cycling was diminishing, and the desire to keep cycling becoming more forced by the day. With three more months of tough cycling in the tropics approaching, a list of repairs on my bicycle that seemed to be growing by the day, and home becoming an ever more distant memory; the idea of a winter break in England began to slowly form in my mind.
Sometimes, making decisions such as this can be quite stressful. Fortunately for my peace of mind, and rather unfortunately for my health, the scales tipped heavily in favour of a winter break when I began to develop symptoms that closely resembled malaria. At this point, I should probably make it clear that I don’t have malaria. (And I’m also not trying to recommend it as a stress-reliever.) Quite what I have, or had, is not clear. A diagnosis of heat exhaustion by an Indian doctor raised more questions than it answered. Subsequent symptoms that resembled Giarrdia further confused matters. What did become clear was that I was in no fit state to cycle. Thus, the decision to head home was as good as made for me. The idea of overcoming illness, and then this long term fatigue, felt like one challenge too many. Therefore, my cycling in India finally came to an end a few days short of Bangalore.
After leaving Goa, I had cycled down the coast for a couple of days, before cutting inland. The cycling was slow, but fairly pleasant. The jungle no longer held the mysterious charm of those first few days. However, I was still lucky enough to see animals that I had no idea lived in the jungle, such as an Emu and a huge stag, as well as more familiar wildlife, like monkeys and snakes. Furthermore, somewhat ironically, I also experienced the most pleasant day for cycling, since I arrived in India. It was an entire day of, often torrential, rain. I have always wanted to experience cycling in heavy rain, whilst not being cold. For an Englishman, it is a truly novel experience.
Unfortunately, this weather did not last, but it mattered very little. I do not really remember much of the final three days of cycling, as I began to struggle more and more to keep cycling. Eventually, I abandoned trying to cycle in the town of Shimoga. After a consultation with the aforementioned doctor and a few days rest, I was well enough to catch a bus to Bangalore. From there, a direct flight sent me hurtling back towards a temporary taste of normal life.
However, despite this rather abrupt end to cycling in India, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, apart from crashing into that moped – I think that I would probably try and avoid that if I did it all over again. However, the salient point is that, whilst travelling in India is undoubtedly stressful and probably contributed to me needing a break, it has been an incredibly memorable couple of months. The amazing new experiences, the culinary delights, the architectural wonders, and the fascinating people all made the stress worthwhile. Obviously, I’m not going to be rushing back to India any time soon, but I’m incredibly glad that I visited, however unplanned it may have been. If I wanted stress-free travel, then cycling was probably a bad choice in the first place.
Finally, for the next few months this blog will undoubtedly be neglected by me, whilst I rest and ready myself for the next stage of my trip. However, I have greatly enjoyed writing these posts and as my plans start to take shape, I will endeavour to share them here. Let there be no mistake about it – this is not the last stop for the Tourient Express. And please do not “all change”, for the journey will continue.
Stats So Far
Distance cycled: 11,100 kilometres
Longest day: Nukus to Urgench (173.9 kilometres/8:34)
Fastest day: Myri to Alexadroupoli (133.4 kilometres @ 24.3 km/h)
Favourite place: Hosgeldeniz*
Spokes broken: 4
Courses of antibiotics prescribed: 6
*This was the name of the first village we camped outside, in Turkey. Or so we thought. Anyone who knows any Turkish will know that it actually means ‘Welcome’. We did start to wonder why such tiny place was so famous, once we started seeing ‘Hosgeldeniz’ plastered everywhere.