The generally slow speed of cycle touring seems to lend itself to becoming more observant. The roadside world goes by slowly and the senses are all so richly engaged. The simplicity of riding day after day also lends itself to plenty of day-dreaming and mind-wandering, when not dodging potholes or oncoming cars or cows!
Over the past weeks of riding I’ve loved observing the way that the land generously allows life to be sustained. I was first struck by this nearly three months ago as our train rolled it’s way west through the sprawling mass of civilization that is Shanghai. While the earth is struggling and groaning and in need of great care, I found it miraculous that it has even managed to provide for the enormous demands humanity has placed on it thus far.
More recently these thoughts returned to me. As we’ve ridden from Bishkek (Kyrgystan) to Korog (Tajikistan) the diversity of the land and how that land provides life has been fascinating. In the green pastures in the northern Kyrgystan hill country we rode past long lines of tables balanced precariously in the wind on the roadside, stacked with Kumyss and little white ‘kurd balls’. Over the Ala-Bel pass we dropped into river valleys and lakes famous for their Salmon. Interspersed amongst the Salmon stalls were shelves stacked high with pottles of honey and hives buzzing with busy bees. Further south as we rolled through the busy and fertile grounds of the Fergana Valley great loads of juicy melons were beautifully stacked in identical stalls, lining the road one after another. Often we ride early in the morning, the sound of roosters crowing serves as a constant reminder of the origins of the masses of eggs that are stacked artistically in every bazaar. While these lands were overflowing in obvious abundance, as we entered Tajikistan the high altitudes of the Pamir region didn’t boast such richness. Yet here, one of the driest and harshest places on the planet, the earth still provides. The goats provide milk, yoghurt and butter, and delicious breads are still cooked. That life goes on here in these barren lands is quite astounding.
And of course collecting water is a regular routine for us. Water has an incredible ability to bring life, often even in the most unexpected places. Unlike the turn of the tap that we're more familiar with, having to travel to a central point to collect water has the special knack of bringing people together. I don't want to over-romanticise the hard work that locals have to do to get their water, but it does have some nice social benefits!
As we move from here I’m looking forward to observing the ongoing changes in the way that the land provides life and seeing how people interact with their land in order to meet their daily needs.
|Kumyss and Kurd Balls and Yurts|
|Bees, Hives and Honey|
|Melons are serious business.|
|Egg Art in the Osh Bazaar|
|Hot bread, chai, yoghurt, butter, cream and shelter from the wild winds.|
|The hard working old girl that gaves us these treats!|
|Water: Brings life and brings people together.|