Wednesday, April 21, 2010
"ITS NOT ABOUT THE BIKE"
I believe the bicycle is the greatest mode of transport and possibly the greatest invention ever. It was Leonardo Da Vinci at his best. It can take you wherever you wish to go. And if you are faced with an obstacle, its easy to push and light enough to carry. It can hold great weight (more than 40 kilos), and it can pull a trailer if necessary. Its non polluting, great for your health and fitness and its just fun being on one. If there are any problems mechanically, the bicycle is relatively easy to fix. And if I can't fix it, practically every town in the world has some sort of bicycle mechanic. Most of us probably have happy memories as kids on bicycles. Why do many of us turn our back on this enjoyment as we get older. I believed the bicycle would be the perfect mode of transport to travel around the world but personal security was always a concern. A solo touring cyclist is very vulnerable. Pedalling alone across some desert with everything you need to survive attached to the bicycle. The fear was it was going to attract the attention of some enterprising criminal. It took me 21 days to cycle across Iran and with no international bank cards recognized here, I crossed that border with U.S.$1000 in my pocket. Only one bank in Turkmenistan would give me money. 30 days in Uzbekistan and I only found one ATM working. These countries receive very little tourism and from the stares I was getting, I'm convinced most locals had never seen a tourist on a bicycle before. But rather than seeing a foreigner that they could rip-off or steal from, most people greeted me with smiles and waves and welcomes.
If you are whizzing through some country on a tour bus, you can very often be viewed as that wealthy tourist, but it seems that when you are on a bicycle, you are just greeted with curiosity and welcomes. In general the bicycle is the mode of transport of either children or the poor. So when I pedalled through some random town, I was neither viewed as a threat or as a wealthy tourist. People see you as something different and their curiosity welcomes you more than 99% of the time.