One Year on the Road
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That’s right , one year on the road. We can’t believe is either, although when we look back over the last 12 months the incredible number of adventures we’ve had proves that it must be true.
It’s been a year of highs and lows – literally. From sea level in Hong Kong to the extreme heights of Sichuan, Qinghai, Tibet and Nepal back down to the pancake-flat plains of India. We’ve sweated out the heat from tropical Guangxi to the deserts of Rajasthan and frozen our butts off sleeping in Tibetan monasteries and trekking in the Himalayas.
Yes, it’s been a year of superlatives starring the superstar of all mountains, Everest, which we have now seen from pretty much every angle imaginable. We climbed to our highest point, Drolma La Pass at 5,600 meters ( 18,400 ft), during our kora around Mt. Kailash in western Tibet. That record has yet to be broken, but we’ve come within a few hundred feet on several occasions including Gokyo Ri, Gorak Shep, and Chhukhung Ri, all in the Everest region of Nepal. But geography is not the only highlight.
Our path over the last twelve months could have been lifted straight from a textbook on Asia’s artistic and architectural treasures from the Dazu Caves and the Giant Buddha of Leshan in China to the Potala and Gyantse Kumbum in Tibet to the Khajuraho Temples and Taj Mahal in India. Equally impressive are the lesser known attractions including the Sengze Gyanak mani pile in Qinghai, the traditional Nepalese Newari towns of Patan and Bhaktapur, and the mesmerizing Jain Temples of northern India. I could fill pages just listing the phenomenal sites we’ve explored.
Our route has taken us through some of the most spiritual territory on the planet. We sat with chanting monks beneath the Bodhi tree, joined pilgrims to the Jokhang temple in Lhasa, climbed Jain holy mountains, boated the holy (and highly polluted) waters of the Ganges in the sacred Hindu city of Varanasi. We’ve chatted with Sadhus, Sikhs and Sufi mystics, danced with animated animists, bantered with Bon worshipers. It’s all been great fun – but we still haven’t found God/gods or enjoyed enlightenment – oh well, we’re still youngish.
But the most interesting aspect of our first year on the road has been the challenge of living as Contemporary Nomads. At times, the nomadic lifestyle can be a bit exhausting. The treasures above don’t always come easily. We’ve stayed in some pretty lousy dives over the last 12 months. (Don’t you hate it when you turn on the air cooler in your hotel room and a live snake blows out at you? Me too!) We’ve bumped our way through the back roads in Chinese and Indian sleeper buses, trekked for weeks on end, ridden camels for days, biked, boated, rafted, and even crawled to see what we’ve seen. So far, this ain’t no vacation in the Bahamas (although that might be coming up soon.)
Perhaps the greatest challenges are the little things: lack of privacy, daily power outages, always having to pack up, not hanging out with our friends back home, sleeping in strange beds, and not having our own kitchen. Actually, missing food might be the greatest challenge: burritos, corn chips with guacamole, a warm German pretzel with butter, good freshly brewed coffee…
So has it been worth it?
Absolutely, it certainly beats a forty-hour work week behind a desk. Or kicking my bosses butt in Berlin to finally issue my paycheck!!! Every single day brings such memorable experiences – it’s amazing how much we can actually recall from the last year. Back in Berlin, the days blended together into a comfortable yet indistinguishable mass memory. We’ve both lost weight and can walk for miles on end. Life has become a series of mental and physical challenges which have shaken us back into consciousness – a kind of rebirth into our new nomadic life.
And that’s just the first year!!!