31 December 2017
Thagnak, a village in the Himalayas, 4682 meters above sea level, Nepal
It’s New Year’s Eve, 9 pm. I try in vain to keep my eyes open. Struggling, knackered, I locate my manger for the night. The yak dung in the stove of the lodge is blowing his last breath and leads me towards a bed, sleeping bag, 2 blankets on top, down jacket, hat, scarf, mittens and all the clothing in my possession needed to spend the night in the freezing cold.
Fireworks splash all around, at least imaginary, on my retina. I do not get midnight, my body is exhausted, my head is tired and my eyelids are feeling extremely heavy. I think of what the past year brought. I think of good and less good moments. Of countless, unforgettable encounters, some people in particular, landscapes which still haunt me, because of their beauty, roughness or remoteness. I overflow month per month while the fireworks happily splash around.
JANUARY 2017 This picture was taken two hours before my worst experience of 2017. The most wonderful man of Iran lives in Marvdasht (near Persepolis) and is married to a sweet Greek lady. The evening before I wanted to camp next to Persepolis, he came towards me, a big smile on his warm face included. Asking if I didn’t want to camp in the garden of the hotel he was working in. First I said ‘no thank you’, but after a while, feeling insecure after what happened the last days, I said yes. I pitched my tent in the garden of that fancy hotel. The man asked if I wanted to take a shower and have some food (all for free). Again, I said ‘no thank you’. Half an hour later, the manager showed up. I couldn’t stay there, it wasn’t allowed for security reasons. So the sweet man asked the gardener to bring me to his house where his wife took care of me, offered me tea, a shower and a bed to sleep in. The warmest encounter I had in Iran was definitely in Marvdasht. Especially after two ‘cold’ days #Iran
FEBRUARY 2017 Oman was the country where I regained confidence. Confidence for being alone on the road again, for wild camping, for trusting people. Oman was the helping hand that led me further direction Taiwan. Oman was also a new chapter because of the new bike that awaited me. More dirt road, more adventure, more remoteness, more happiness #oman
MARCH 2017 Cycling in Emirates’ desert was an amazing adventure. Tracks stopped, but my way didn’t. Luckily the day before it rained, so pushing my bike over sand dunes became a bit more easy #unitedarabemirates
APRIL 2017 I volunteered one afternoon and night in the best smelling bakery of Uzbekistan. What an experience! What a day and night! I was cycling through Juma, a town in Uzbekistan. My nose led me to a table where bread was sold. ‘Buy one’, said my nose! Behind that table were the firewood ovens. Speaking of fresh bread… There was also a guy, Adhamjon, who asked me if I wanted to have a look inside the ovens. Sure I wanted. Although it was early morning and I didn’t have a lot of kilometres in my legs, I asked if I could see how the bread was made. The bakery was run by Adhamjon’s family. They didn’t only make the best bread in Uzbekistan but also different kind of biscuits. I wanted to help. I could. I wanted to know how the process was made. ELEVEN different steps were needed to bake one bread (sold for € 0,5)! At 1 am I was still rolling and folding the dough. My fingers were hurting, my legs were tired but I didn’t dare to stop. The mother of the family was falling asleep while kneading the dough. I said she better go to bed. She didn’t want to. Work needed to be done! Finally, I stopped working, I felt guilty about it, but my body protested. I left four more people in the bakery. They worked till 3 am and at 6 am they woke up to finalise the bread and start baking them. Unimaginable! My respect for this family and team is enormous. They stayed so positive and enthusiastic. They also offered me homemade Samsa and a good bed to sleep in. The next morning I could join Adhamjon to the bazaar where all the biscuits were sold. What an experience! Thanks a lot, guys and good luck! #Uzbekistan
MAY 2017 The first time ever I got stuck for a rather long time in a sandstorm. A sandstorm near Karakul Lake. Five hours I was surrounded by that storm and my shaking tent. It was fine. I felt good. It was cosy inside of my shelter. And then suddenly it was quiet. Suspiciously silent. There was … nothing. No waving tent sail, no sand ‘hail’ on my tarp, no extra sand that slipped into my tent, … It was quiet, noiseless, I was in heaven #tajikistan
JUNE 2017 Tajiks hospitality… Checking if I could camp in a field next to a house, a man showed up. He invited me to stay at his place. I was spoiled with a room for myself, dinner, breakfast and litres of chai. And not to forget, lots of attention from extremely lively and sweet kids #tajikistan
JULY 2017 Riding into Kyrgyzstan is a moment I’ll never forget. I was overwhelmed by beauty. It’s strange to see the scenery changing with crossing a border. It’s surprising to see people living in different houses, having another mentality and other livestock. And all this because of a line on a map #kyrgyzstan
AUGUST 2017 With no expectations I entered Kazakhstan. From fellow cyclists, I heard about the boring busy road towards Almaty. I tried to avoid that one. Like that, Kazakhstan surprised me with loads of stunning dirt roads and very nice encounters with kind and hospitable people #kazakhstan
SEPTEMBER 2017 Winter arrived. I felt the magic of experiencing the first snowflakes falling in my beloved Kyrgyzstan. I enjoyed my luxury stay in my tent under the bridge. When the day started I felt like cycling in a fairytale #kyrgyzstan
OCTOBER 2017 Finding a remote camp spot is not always that easy in overpopulated India. One evening thirty kids surrounded my tent. Super sweet, polite and curious kids. Every movement they noticed. Sixty small eyes directed on one tent, one bike and one human being: me. When the biggest part of the children went home and I already was in bed mode, I heard a voice next to my tent: “Trien Trien, I have something for you”, it was Ajay (12), he picked some beautiful, warm pink flowers for me. Melting time 😉 Good night Ajay #india
NOVEMBER 2017 I can’t describe how happy cycling through remote places with no traffic, no houses make me. Being overwhelmed by nature I feel at my best. Where there’s no village, no track, no people, just nothing. And there, in all that nothing, I find so much of everything. So much freedom, so much power, so many sounds, so much connection with nature. I love to feel small and being overwhelmed #india
DECEMBER 2017 I went hiking for 18 days in the Nepalese Himalayas. I had the most terrible guide in the most stunning scenery. But what are 18 days in a lifetime? Being surrounded by the giants of the world. Crossing three passes above 5000 metres, hiking to Everest basecamp and climbing the 5540 metres Kala Pattar was a unique, overwhelming, once in a lifetime experience #nepal
15 January 2018
Kathmandu, a capital city, 1343 meters above sea level, Nepal
In the meantime, I have left behind the bitter cold and the overwhelming Himalayas. I look forward, through the fog over the city, to Taiwan, my final destination. I look further ahead, to more encounters, more unforgettable landscapes, to cycling in South Korea and Japan. Also to Vladivostok and the trans-Siberian train that will bring me to Saint Petersburg, to cycling through Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and to finally arrive in Belgium, in Ghent.
I will not be on the road for two years, but more. I will not cycle 30,000 kilometres, but more. I will not collect 30,000 euros, but more.
I also wish you more.
More warmth in cold times, more love than hate, more together than alone, more comfort than neglect, more common sense than unresolved discussions, more good in your skin than worrying about an extra wrinkle, more respect than prejudices, more unforgettable moments than forgetting to live, more fries than mayonnaise. Happy 2018!