Horizons of India – Achieving New Potentials
An 11 minute read
“There are some parts of the world that, once visited, get into your heart and won’t go. For me, India is such a place. When I first visited, I was stunned by the richness of the land, by its lush beauty and exotic architecture, by its ability to overload the senses with the pure, concentrated intensity of its colors, smells, tastes, and sounds. It was as if all my life I had been seeing the world in black and white and, when brought face-to-face with India, experienced everything re-rendered in brilliant technicolor.” ~ Keith Bellows, Editor-in-Chief, The National Geogrpahic Society
It is 5:45 at night with slowly setting sun. The time of day when I start looking and start planning. The cows and I continue our arguably aimless wandering along the road as the humidity of the day descends upon us. Covered by a hazy film of the days struggle I press on. We are both looking for something similar. Our bellies full from a previous stop, we have one goal in mind. Rest. The art of sleep begins.
As I pedal along at this time of night I am looking for but one thing, a safe place to camp. The road is too busy and too crazy in India, so it is best to turn down a side road. In other parts of the world I could simply set up shop without a care. But, peering eyes and a disturbed sleep is never fun. In India I prefer staying in proximity to people. Not that it is dangerous elsewhere, it is simply more comforting knowing you have permission to sleep. So I continue my slow trundle until I spot a house. On a good day I look for a more affluent place to stay, as I don’t want to overburden anyone. I simply want a patch of ground to pitch my tent, sleep a good night and be off by 7:30am. I remove my sunglasses, wash my face with some water and try to look as friendly as possible. Sometimes that is hard with a growing beard and no shower in a week.
Usually I start by looking for someone already outside, so as not to startle them as much. A grandfather relaxing or women taking down drying clothes are usual suspects. I suck up all of my courage, hold my breath and say quietly, “Here we go.” I dismount from my bike and begin my walk towards the new person. This is the hardest part of all. I then greet them with a happy smile and do my best to explain myself. I say that I want nothing more than a patch of ground outside to pitch my tent and in the morning I will be gone early. Sometimes this requires lots of hand gestures and others none at all. I explain I started riding in China and now I am here. At this point I am usually met with a bit of a laugh, a curious interest and disbelief. One man asked, “Who sent you?” I replied, “No one sent me sir, I just came here.” He nodded and I set up my tent.
This is where the kindness of people is truly witnessed. To take in a very dirty man off the road with little more than a few words exchanged. I always say where I am from and ask for their names. After the tent is all set up and everyone is done laughing at my strange house, I am either left to my own devices or beckoned inside. There is usually a general concern for my dinner. I have a practice of eating early if I plan to camp and carry extra food with me. However, almost always I am offered food. Usually I politely refuse, but then it is insisted and I eat something. Even after just eating dinner, I can always eat again with all the calories I burn in a day. Being welcomed into someone’s home after showing up a few minutes earlier is amazing. I have learned so much about the countries I have travelled, because of it. The side that most people never see. The side that is never in the guidebook. The side that is still difficult to explain. Simply put, this is a new home, a generous family, humanity at it’s best and another strangely regular day in my life.
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” ~ Dalai Lama, The Art of Happiness
The story picks up from Kochi, where we last left off. I hummed out of the vibrant backwaters and into thick traffic heading up the west coast towards Goa. I moved at a steady pace of over 130km a day. It was tough at times with the road becoming more hilly. Eventually taking a day off I spent the night in a passable hotel in Kunnar and celebrated Christmas by looking at a fish tank and sending messages back home. After all the festivities, I pedalled on towards Goa. I had 5 days and over 600km of very hilly roads if I was going to make it and not spend New Years alone as well. That is the only thing that kept me going as my legs burned up another winding hill track.
One night a family even welcomed me into sleep in their guest room at their house. They would not hear of me camping outside. It was a nice relief to have a shower and home cooked delicious meal. The next morning as I carried my bags out I was looking for my bike. Where had it gone? The morning dew had made the stairs quite slippery and preoccupied with the whereabouts of my bike I slipped down the staircase as the family watched in horror. Nothing was hurt but my failing pride. We all laughed about it and the grandfather wheeled out my cycle from behind a wall. He thought it would be funny idea to hide my bike and see my reaction. Well, he got a good show.
When I arrived in Goa I was shattered with exhaustion. With the busy season, the prices in Goa were high by my accounts and little vacancy available. I arranged with an amazing group of people at a place called Road House Hostels to camp in their backyard. They were super accommodating and made sure everyone there was happy as we all welcomed in 2015, hundreds of miles from home with fireworks on Anjuna Beach. If ever in Goa look up Uday and the people at Road House Hostels HERE.
Then came time for yet another hard departure. Unknown road ahead that proved certainly to be hilly from all the squiggles on my map. I explored the wild Saturday night market and was on my way the next morning towards Mumbai. I had made minor repairs while in Goa, but that quickly seemed not to have mattered. My bike creaked up hills like a coffee grinder. With no cycle shop in sight and my tools not up to the task, I put in my headphones and ignored it. By the fifth day to Mumbai my body was feeling exhausted. Dirty from the road and endless climbs, I was weak. Looking back now, I even signed my journal, October 5, 2015!! I was delirious and worn out.
I woke one morning packed up my tent and had some breakfast. It was a questionable location, but on a tight budget most days, it fit the bill. I guess the food was mixed with some dirty water and I knew it about 10KM down the road. There is clearly something wrong when it is hovering around 38 degrees celsius and you are shivering cold while riding a bike up a hill. I knew I was in trouble. I was dizzy and getting quite sick. With my last bits or energy I took the bags off my bike and waited for someone to pick me up. I needed a doctor, a hotel or anything but being on the side of a busy road. I quickly lost all energy and was just sitting there waiting for someone to stop with feeble waves. Not long after a policeman came past, rounded my things up in his car and took me to the next town. It was the most terrifyingly dangerous driving I have ever witnessed. He could sense my apprehension as my stomach did backflips. He simply said, “It’s okay Mr. Mark, I am a policeman.” That still didn’t settle my stomach or repair the smashed guard rails where other drivers had lost control.
Upon arriving at the doctors office things were not good. The doctor was in no mood to see a sick foreigner. Eventually prescribing me some pills and subduing me with an IV in the backroom of a dusty home clinic. The first time I have truly been sick on this trip. I repeatedly thanked the policeman for helping me who kept returning to check on me throughout the day. After eventually regained some strength, I set up camp in the doctors yard with no hotel in sight. A miserly night to be in a tent.
The following day I felt almost at 100% again. Running on whatever reserves I had left. I needed to make it to Mumbai. The road veered upwards through terrible conditions. I inhaled piles of dust, was completely utterly filthy and done. Entering the labrynth that is Mumbai, I was overwhelmed. People everywhere. Extreme urban poverty and extreme wealth in the same second. I dodged traffic, until collapsing into a good night sleep in a real bed.
“I almost hit a monkey with my bike the other day.” ~ Me, Things you can only say in India.
I have grown to truly love the unpredictability that is India. There is a certain quality about it that makes the rest of the world seem like a lifetime away. Like a distant memory that flashes in my dreams. India invades your internal energy and squeezes ever bit of you out. Everything is on the table. A small cricket game as I float by. Mountain views with exhilarating declines. The wandering man. Beautiful sunsets. That little head wiggle of acknowledgement. A crawling need to know. To be seen. To be heard.
Life can be pretty predictable if you want it to be. There are the elements of personal potential prodigy in all of us. We are all only guides in the eternal spider string that weaves our destiny. In the end our true path is only but a shifting painting that rotates between cloudy and bright sunsets. Depending on how you view those moments, you are entitled to set the stage for the next rolling rise. I grew up in a small beautiful place called Rideau Ferry in Eastern Ontario. I spent a long time with little knowledge of that daunting outside globe. But deep down that interest was always crawling somewhere to the surface. Now as I continue to explore, I hone my curiosity and established new boundaries on my winding stage of individual hope. In the end though, all roads lead home. Wherever you let that frilled hat and broken body lay.
On the 26th of January I will be visiting the community of Verdara in Rajasthan Province. This is the site where we are raising funds to help build the next school in India. I wholeheartedly look forward to sharing with everyone my experiences there and give a little insight to the people we are helping develop sustainable livelihoods. To date $12,717 has been raised for my charity with over 100 donors for Free the Children. How awesome is that?
About a week ago I held a small, but short-lived contest. At the time there were 99 sponsorships, so I put out a message that said the next person to donate would receive a handwritten thank you from myself sent from India. In less than an hour one kind Stephen McGlade made that milestone come true. He simple put, “Call me #100”. Close second at #101 was Patrick Love. A wonderful gesture and even better friends. Stephen and Patrick’s letters are in the mail. Who doesn’t like getting a letter? Give me more excuses to write letters. I would also like to thank St. Joseph’s School in Toledo, for their amazing donation just before Christmas. The first of many places I was able to speak about my ride. Thank you for giving me the chance and for all of your support!
To continue helping out the community of Verdara click HERE TO DONATE.
Updates are also in for the community of Guang Ming, Sichuan, China. The first site is now complete with the help of our $10,000 contribution. Over 900 students now have access to a safe school. For those interested in reading more see the bottom of this post. More pictures to come soon. Thank you to everyone who contributed. I really can’t say thank you enough!
Posted on January 16, 2015, in Adventure, Around the World, Charity, Cycling, India, Inspiration, Motivation, Thoughts, Travel and tagged Acceptance, Adventure, Around the World, Awesome, Beach, Beautiful, Bicycle, Challenge, Charity, Christmas, Cycling, Dalai Lama, Dreams, Excitement, Explore, fear, Free the Children, Freedom, Goa, Goals, happiness, Hot, India, Inspiration, Kerala, Kindness, Maharashtra, motivation, Mountains, Mumbai, New Years, Oneadventureplease, People, The Road, Thoughts, Travel, Travel Photos, Travelpics, values. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.