Doodh Patti

Travel, Food and and Khaalis Doodh Patti Mind {and Lahore}

Biking on the roof of the world

Richard is on solo mountain biking trip to India, Pakistan, China, Tibet and Nepal trying to circumnavigate the Himalayas.

Earlier, Richard was on the in the area during 2002-03. In December 2005, he had finalized route, time plan and started research and preparation to leave towards the end of June 2006 and to be on the road until the end of the year, possibly returning just before the Christmas 2006. He is on it now. I was keenly following his progress on this trip and have had a chance to meet with him and talk when he was in Lahore in August.

Richard is an independent traveler without rigid time frame and strict schedules. His route includes Northern India where he plans to ride through Rishikesh, Hardiwar, Shimla, Kinnaur, Spiti, Lahaul, Rupshu, Ladakh, Dharamsala, Amritsar. Pakistan, with the many times traveled KKH, is a popular destination with cyclists. Western China, with her Xinjiang and Tibet provinces, is always full of challenges requiring absolute determination and commitment but with rewards unlike any other - Kashgar on the crossroads of the famous Silk Route, Kailash - The Bon center of the universe and the ultimate pilgrimage site for Tibetans Buddhists, as well as Hindus and Jains from India, Kingdom of Guge, Himalayan peaks, Tibetan lakes, and many more. Lastly, Nepal and its people are always welcoming despite never-ending political turmoil, in the Himalayan outskirt towns and villages as well as in Kathmandu and Pokhara.

Richard also has plans to return to Pakistan with more climbing expedition in near future. I am already looking forward to that.

Why you travel? (Knowing everyone else asks the same question, I resisted.) “I have been asked this many times. It is a fairly straightforward question, the answer is anything but. And I'm sure, if you'd ask hundred people, you would get hundred different answers. In its essence, travel is simply a way to discover multitudes of human experiences. I think the only true way to achieve it is by traveling 'mostly' alone, or in a small group of like-minded fellow 'wanderers'. It is about the only way of how to interact with locals, and see, feel, and hopefully understand better their lives, may they be happy and wonderful, or tragic and full of sorrow... This often means leaving behind the comforts that I am used to at home as it is about meeting unexpected challenges almost daily, i.e. overcoming language barriers, finding out and respecting local customs and cultural differences, or being a little bit adventurous when tasting wide variety of (sometimes highly unusual!!!) dishes, and much more... To experience it all fully, I have to let go off my 'Western way' of doing things. Sometimes, just a slight change in my behavior (as in "When in Rome, do as Romans do.") will bring on many memorable, even funny, encounters with local people,” writes Richard.

Unlike most backpackers, I have had chance to meet, I found Richard well prepared and well informed.

In Pakistan, after crossing at Wagah, Rich stayed in Lahore some days (at a place near Regal on the Mall I had no clue) before leaving for Islamabad to get Chinese visa and then jump onto the Karakoram Highway and pedal all the way to Kashgar in Xinjiang. While on the KKH, he wants to bike through Kaghan Valley and reconnect with the KKH near Chilas. This is difficult route as compared to taking KKH right from Hasan Abdal but he says, “I like to take this challenge and see more.”

English is not his first language but Rich speaks (loud enough for me) and writes exceptionally well. He is alive to the political situation in South Asia and keeps himself update about what is happening in Nepal, how Pakistani and Indian economies are growing or what were the impacts of October Earthquake in Pakistan.

Having read Alive and Well in Pakistan by Ethan Casey, Richard finds Pakistan and its people friendly, peaceful and welcoming. “I have not had any problems so far,” he says, “some writers exaggerate to dramatize their tales but nothing has happened to me still.

“Those who have a chance to visit the country, see for themselves and meet people have better view of Pakistan but those who have never been here know Pakistan as the media presents,” he says.

He writes his diary for himself “to help prepare in a more organized fashion for this adventure . But there is so much more about the trip that I know for sure I will get side-tracked into discussing history, religion, politics, current affairs and culture. I guess, in essence, that is what traveling is all about. Being confronted by unexpected and different and discovering just how much in common we have.”


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