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muru cycles

Updates!

Updates!

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It's been a hectic three or so months since I returned to Sydney from Llandeilo, Wales (an incredible spot, pictured above). With my sabbatical year wrapped up I've been busy at home with projects in Oz, but am finally managing to get caught up on updating the website, the work on which is nearly always in arrears!

In any case, I've updated a few things on the site, including my Muru Cycles Mungo review, and getting up my articles for destination inspiration in China, Tibet and Central Asia; Europe and Australia.

Take a look around, and as always drop me a line if you have any questions or comments!

Three Months

Three Months

Three months. Ninety days -- a quarter of the year.

Settled into it now, the routines. Find water, find a campsite, make camp, cook dinner over the petrol stove, sleep and wake, make coffee, break camp and pack up the bike again. Grinding climbs, sweat pouring into my eyes and my sunglasses and clothes all stained by salt. Then descents like visitations by angels, full of oxygen and endorphins, speed and ease like satori, a sudden bliss dawning in your heart.

I go for days where I do not speak to anyone. I could be a ghost yolked to this machine, cycling some bardo realm, a near-isomer to reality, bottling up digital messages along my way to send out on wifi or 3G to prove my existence. My arms and legs are suntanned to peeling and they itch. Fuck prudence, I'll scratch them anyway.

I no longer sightsee. Cities are supermarkets and services. Eating and running errands, and sleep. The places I find other travellers seem like islands I happen by in a vast ocean in which I am myself endlessly adrift and in-between. 

Mostly, I am outside. If I do not visit a store, and the weather and insects permit camping without a tent, often nothing intercedes between my body and the sky for a day or more. I often smell a bit and do not really care at all.

There are, of course, amazing people along the way. Hilarious and interesting and profound conversations. Omar and Lazarus, Ash and Natalie, Nelson and Rae. That serendipitous sort of meeting that may not only happen when travelling, but which occurs so much more often here. Introduce consistently high levels of unpredictability into the system and the outputs are often themselves a scattering of rare beasts.

In the meantime, we try to create art. Try to make meaning, not only for oneself but for others. Because this experience is worth entering into, even secondhand, and because there is something transformative not only in the places we go, but in the mode of consciousness that we enter into transiting them.

As to where all this is going, geographically, metaphysically, who knows? It all seems unscryable from this vantage. There's a lot more road to go.

The Secret Road: Zhongdian to Yading

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The Secret Road: Zhongdian to Yading

On the highway forty kilometres north of Zhongdian there's an unassuming turnoff to a rough dirt road thru the high mountains. I'd been told about this 'secret road' by a cyclist named Matthew Harris back in Sydney. He said the road was truly very bad, but also very beautiful. That sounded perfect to me.

It was a long steep hellish climb along the road past a large-scale earthworks project, complete with dynamite blasting and a cracking altitude headache. Waking the next morning and continuing on into the high mountains, though, the views felt well earned. The mountains were wild and snowcapped and sharp and I drank snowmelt straight as it poured into freezing streams off the huge snowfields there. Past the flapping prayer flags at 4600m, the road wound down in rough, rocky, muddy tracks crossed by torrents of meltwater, an hour of white-knuckled ripping downslope that's as fun as any riding I've done. 

It ended, like so much here, in a raw gouge in the earth snaking ambiguously downward, which presented a navigational problem. A paved road? Well, that naturally leads somewhere. A battlefield-like maze of Chinese construction tracks coming off a mountain at 3800m, pocked and rutted and covered in moon dust two inches thick? Well, let's just say that just because you have a GPS doesn't mean you aren't lost. The roads you're on don't technically exist yet, and they're all the more treacherous for it. My brake rotors were too hot to touch, and bouncing from one gigantic, dust-covered pothole to another, I found myself pitched off the bike and lightly bleeding. Nonetheless, this was the precisely the route I'd chosen my equipment for. The 29+ platform, even fully loaded, made the secret road not just possible, but fun.

And when I finally reached the tarmac again near the hamlet of Geka, filthy and aching, I bivvied by the river, washing the dirt off my body by moonlight beneath the high steep walls. In the morning, a gorgeous 2000m climb on landslide canyon roads to a freezing pass in the spooky twilight, then descending screaming-fast to the village of Echu, where I found no lodging but instead a group of ambiguously friendly strangers who bundled me into a van to a Super 8 Motel in city I had no idea even existed, just in time for me to become violently ill.

That secret road thru the mountains, though, was indeed the real deal.

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