Everything was going to plan. I'd survived the Pamir Highway, and China loomed giant ahead. I would soon be in Bishkek, where I could rest and party in equal proportions while I waited for my Chinese visa.
3 months earlier this would have passed without incident, but a recent change in visa policy meant I was unable to apply from Kyrgyzstan or Kazakhstan. Now I would have to post my passport home, apply from London, and then have it posted back to me. Inconvenient. Added expense. Slight delay. I hurriedly made plans for what I expected to be 2 – 3 weeks in Bishkek, emailing English-language schools to volunteer as a teacher (sadly none replied), arranging couchsurfing hosts and planning trips by car, bike and on foot around the country. If I had to stay, I was determined to make the most of it, and in a few weeks I would be cycling into China with everything back on track.
A few days after my passport's long journey to the Chinese Embassy in London, I received a worried phone call from Mum. My passport had been returned. Visa denied. Embassy declined to explain why. It hit me like a brick wall. No visa meant no China. I was angry and frustrated as my dream collapsed around me; for four
years my thoughts had been consumed by this trip. And it wasn't fair, it wasn't supposed to happen like this.
My childish tantrum was short-lived, and I soon saw this as just the latest in a long series of setbacks and obstacles I had faced and overcome on this trip already. Garnering courage from what I had already achieved I knew everything would work out somehow, my resilience was stronger than a stupid visa rejection. A phoenix from the fire, my dreams returned with a renewed passion.
For various bureaucratic visa reasons I was also denied passage through Russia and Pakistan which penned me in on all sides. I had exhausted all other possibilities and it was clear a plane was necessary and my chain of 14,000 kilometres of continuous cycling was set to be broken. It didn't bother me as much as I had expected. In fact, it was quite liberating, removing the shackles I had constricted myself with. When I left, cycling every inch of the way, avoiding, planes, trains and buses hadn't been important to me. I had set off on an adventure to explore and learn about the world and have a bloody good time. But I had lost sight of that slightly along the way; in Kyrgyzstan I had cycled 500km extra simply to avoid a 3km tunnel where I would have been forced on to a short bus journey. Having to fly reinforced my reasons for travelling, and with that I made a decision and booked a plane.
So.. where to? I'm going to India! One week ago I had never considered cycling across India, I couldn't name 5 places or even tell you where the Taj Mahal was. And here I am, preparing to cycle across it. Among travellers, India is repeatedly heralded for its uniqueness, a country so different and crazy to all others, that a visit will shock you and your perceptions. Overlanding by bike is slow, changes are subtle. Flying into India is as far down the other end of the culture shock spectrum as is possible. I'm terrified...But at the same time, I absolutely cannot wait. The adventure is just entering a new leg, and its going to be incredible!
What have I been up to in Kyrgyzstan?
My anticipated 2-week wait in Kyrgyzstan became 5 weeks. I can think of worst places to have to spend some time.
Fallen asleep with a carnival of stars parading above my tent.
Woken up early to see the sunrise.
Nearly got married.
An explanation is probably necessary..! I told this woman (innocently, I might add) that I liked her hat, and could I please take a picture...
And her father rushed over and suggested we got married... And she like the idea and agreed we should.
So here's a photo of my beautiful bride-to-be, and a second photo of the yurt where I imagine we will live in happily ever after!
Seen unbelievable sports at the World Nomad Games
This post is dedicated to the wonderful family who have adopted me while I've been solving my various problems. Talaaibek got in touch with me through Couchsurfing, offering to host me for as long as I needed. True to his word, I have been with him for 5 weeks now, and he is encouraging me to stay for another year. I have experienced fierce hospitality and astounding generosity, being treated absolutely as one of the family. He thinks of me as his son, and in many ways, he has been a father to me!