Touring can be life changing

Surly LHT customer Ganesh is back from his tour and posted this on his Google Plus page. Copying the entire post as we think the message is significant!

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I recently got 250 pictures, out of 1000s, printed. Arranging and organizing them gives me a sense of the journey that I’ve just completed. I have just returned home after riding 8000kms on a bicycle over the last 7 months(July 7th,2014 to Feb 5th, 2015). My journey has taken me from Srinagar to Katmandu, a mountainous/hilly stretch over 4 months taking me through the back roads of Ladhak, Himachal Pradesh Uttaranchal and the Terai of Nepal. I turned back into India, from Katmandu, riding through framing villages of Bihar, the Gangatic plains of UP, the badlands of MP and hitting the coast of Maharastra and down home to Manipal, Karnataka.


Ganesh and his LHT

Just two years ago, I was an average engineer working a regular office job. Going through a personal crisis, and to this day I can’t reason why, I decided to buy a bicycle. I still remember those initial days, when a 5 minute ride would leave me in so much pain that I would dread riding it again. But, I stuck with it and was soon climbing the many hilly roads leading to Manipal. This gave a tremendous boost to my confidence and my self-esteem was slowly but surely recovering from an epic crash it had taken. Over the next 6 months, I rode that bicycle regularly come rain or shine. In the evening, after work, I got myself involved in the mechanics by working along side the mechanics at St.Antony biycle works Udupi.
By this time, I had three things working for me – good aerobic fitness, a sound working knowledge of a bicycle and enough money in the bank. After quite a bit of research, I invested the money in a good touring bicycle – Surly Long Haul Trucker. This soon opened up new avenues. I was now planning and successfully executing 3 day solo trips through the western ghats. These were not an end in themselves, rather, they were just training for a multi month ride in Himalayas that I had been secretly planning. I kept my grand plans so low key, that my Parents knew of it only 3-4 months before my departure.
I’ve heard, quitting one’s job is a difficult decision and I’ve never heard of anyone quitting their job to ride a bicycle through the Himalayas. But after a year and half of hard work this was one of the easiest decisions that I’ve made. Once they heard me out, my boss and the CEO of the company were very supportive.

Riding the mountains has to be one of the most exhilarating experiences – one day I am narrowly avoiding being wiped out by a landslide, the second I am pushing my bike up a noodle width trail to cross a 5000mt pass, the third I am spotting snow leopards in gorges, the fourth I am playing Jenga with a couple of sherpas, a seductively hot Dutch girl and a couple of Aussies in the middle of nowhere. But the plains were no less boring. Here I was joined by Leonie Palmer a British adventuress who I rode with from Varanasi to Goa. I first met Leo in October, when were part of the same Woofer class at NOLS India, Ranikhet. We did a short trek to Gaumukh thereafter and were thick as thieves by the end of it. She then went to Thailand and Lao for a bit of bike touring herself before heading back into India. Being partners in crime, we were able to suck all the juice out of the many places we rode through – Paan tasting in Allahabad, Kite flying in Chitrakoot, Trail walking in Mandu, Scrambling and costeering in Goa – a mad,mad,mad,mad ride all the way. Along with her, I discovered a slice of India that I had never seen, but more importantly, positively change her views of India which had taken a bad hit after a brief visit 20 years ago.

The experiential learning that takes place on such journeys is inimitable – my Hindi isn’t as appalling as it once was, my bargaining skills are polished and I revel in it now, my knots stay tied, I am proud to say that I can pack a bag and a complete thorough bath with just a glass of water is just one of my many super powers.

Lao Tzu says that a Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In many ways, it feels like my journey has just begun and I have only taken a few steps. But, WOW, what steps they’ve been! The world is a different place for me now and there are challenges all around. My dad sums it up best when he said “The world hasn’t changed. It’s still the same. What has changed, is the way you see yourself!”

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