Fellow Fauxbos

big group

Cycling the world might seem like a lonely task, but in fact there are thousands of people with feet just as itchy as mine pedaling around the globe at any given moment.  Sign up for www.couchsurfing.com or www.warmshowers.org and one will probably pull up at your house within a couple of weeks.   Sometimes they travel solo, sometimes in pairs, and sometimes in amorphous groups that shrink and expand depending on the circumstances.  Below are my bestest cycle buddies, people with whom I’ve not only crossed paths but shared serious road time.

Mingyu Lee / 밍규리

2013-11-09 Mingyu 002b

Cycled together from August until October 2012 in east China, then again in January 2013 in Taiwan, then again in Autumn 2013 in Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.

Not only a conspirator, but an inspirator as well,  Mingyu had been planning a cycle trip for a couple of years and was slated to quit his job at the organic R&D firm just about the same time I was going to wind down my contract with the junior college in Korea.  Within a few days of meeting, we had agreed to start our journeys together.  We were both happy to have some company and backup, and we boarded a boat for China on August 14th, 2012.   The rest is history…in the making.

Awesome photos and stories at http://mingyulee.tistory.com.  Hope you can read Korean.

 

Xiang Liang

2012-10-11 to Zhengzhou 010

Cycled together for three weeks (along with Mingyu) in September/October 2012.

Met on the road heading south from Beijing and rode together through Henan and several other provinces.  He was a kickass interpreter and wrangled up fantastic meals and great deals on hotels during our time together.  Also an eager student of English and a great Chinese teacher.  Yi lu shen feng, pengyou!

 

Achuan

2012-10-25 to Jiujiang 012

Cycled together for ten days in October 2012.

A young Chinese guy cycling around, supporting himself by setting up shop at universities and selling cute little dolls with messages about following your dreams.

 

Zara / Honorable Elder Turtle Brother / (자라 형님)

2013-04-04 to Yulongxueshan 080

Cycled together for two weeks in April 2013, from Kunming to Shangrila in Yunnan, China.

Zara’s wife, who I just called “Cyclist Sister” for several months until I learned her real name, was the one who invited me to my first Daegu Bicycle Parade event.  She also clued me in to the existence of Vegetarian Dinner Night and the Green Consumers Network, and so essentially was the key to all my eco-friendly connections in Daegu.  Shortly before I left Korea, she and Zara flew to Spain and started cycling eastward; they were together all the way to Turkey, at which point she flew home and he kept on truckin’.  Our paths crossed in Kunming about six months into my trip and ten months into his.

 

The Little Crickets

2013-03-29 to Xiangyun 002b

Cycled together for about a week in April 2012, from Kunming to Dali.

A group of five Chinese youngsters (plus one more we picked up along the way) living the dream and riding all the way from Kunming to Lhasa.  Of the many things I will remember about them, the most prominent is how they taught me that the word for diarrhea in Chinese slang is “butt barf.”

 

Chris Buchman (홍밤수)

Cycled together from October 2013 until present in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Northeast India.

Chris is an old friend from Daegu.  He left for grad school while I was still teaching there and frequently advised me to try a cycle trip rather than following in his footsteps.  If not for his pestering/support, I probably wouldn’t have had the guts to join Mingyu way back when.  About a year into my trip, just as I was reaching southeast Asia, Chris was wrapping up some work in Thailand.  We joined forces and have yet to throttle one another.

Chris is cycling to raise money for Liberty in North Korea, an organization that helps escaped North Korean refugees make better lives.  Check out his website http://www.fromatobe.com.  Donate and spread the word!

 

Minsung Kim (김민성)

2013-11-11 to Phu Yen 027

Cycled together from October 2013 until June 2014 in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Northeast India.

An old friend of Mingyu’s, Minsung saved up diligently while reading Mingyu’s blog and decided to join us about a year into the trip.   He says that he’s long dreamed of visiting Myanmar, India, Nepal, Tibet, and Mongolia.  Two down, three to go!

 

Mirek and Katja

2014-05 Myanmar from Chris 101

Cycled together from November 2013 until July 2014 in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Northeast India

The crème de la crème of world nomads – they’ve been cycling for twelve years and were hitchhiking and traveling by other means for years before that.  There’s no official count for how many countries they’ve crossed or kilometers they’ve ridden.  Katja’s got more gear than me and Mirek’s got more than both of us combined.  They support themselves by stopping in tourist enclaves and selling natural handmade jewelry.  I met them in Hanoi in March 2013; we were heading in different directions but kept in touch and wound up reuniting (again in Hanoi) later that Autumn.

Check their blog at http://www.cyclingnomads.org/2nomads/ or friend Katja on facebook if you want to buy any of their wonderful wares.

 

Daniela Bosch

2014-06-07 to Makhan 013

Cycled together in May and June 2014 in Myanmar and Northeast India.

Daniela met Katja and Mirek at a party in Bangkok, heard about our plans to cycle Myanmar, and went to the embassy the very next day to get her visa sorted.  She had previously done two other short (i.e. month-long) cycle tours in Southeast Asia.  Now she’s at home getting ready for the next one.

 

Dr. Stephen Fabes

steve f

Shared Exploits: 160km off-road bikepacking, 30km trekking, and not inconsiderable amounts of beer and apple pie over two weeks on the Annapurna Circuit, October 2014.   

I first heard about this guy nearly two years ago at a couchsurfing clothes swap in Taipei.  Another participant saw my bike and said “Oh, you’re a cyclist?  You cycled 3 months and 5,000km from northern China to get here?  Yeah, that’s cool.  I’ve got a friend who’s a cyclist, too.  He’s been on the road for three years – did Europe and Africa first, then flew to South America, rode up the Andes and the west coast of the USA, and is somewhere in Alaska now, probably about to reach the arctic ocean.  Oh, and he’s a doctor.”  That sure shut me up.

Fast forward two years and Steve is still waaaaaayyy ahead of me, with 5 years, 6 continents, 60,000km, and a bajillion page hits under his belt now.  (Proportionally, though, it’s not quite as bad a walloping as it was way back when.)   He’s turned it into quite a life, writing articles for CNN, AdventureCyclist, the Cycle Tourist Handbook, and other reputable publications, as well as giving presentations here and there –  sometimes even for $$$!  Way to go, bro!

I had been following Steve’s blog, Cycling the 6, since then.  Oddly enough, though, it was Steve that got in touch with me while scouring the net in search of info about cycling across Myanmar; it seems like our band of Fauxbos made a bit of a splash on the biking blogosphere.  I advised him as best I could, then continued wandering around India’s Northeast with Chris the Shaky while Steve, in a hurry to get back to England and return to normal life, booked it straight towards Nepal.  Our paths crossed in Darjeeling, where we spent a few days awkwardly asking each other the same questions we get tired of answering to locals – route, distances, gear, problems, gear problems, danger spots, top 10s, and so forth.  Somehow, when your interlocutor has suffered through the exact same stuff, it’s not so monotonous to talk about.

Fate had more in store for us than just a few days’ conversation, though.  A month later, Steve and I reconvened at Mango Tree Eco Resort, just south of the start of the Annapurna trekking circuit – not to trek, but to bike it.   Due to a freak Bay of Bengal dry-season typhoon, the higher elevations on the Annapurna circuit received a freak 36-hour snowstorm that dropped about two meters of white stuff over trail and non-trail alike, making it impossible for us to cross Torong La pass (5416m) and set personal records in the process.  Still, we had a great time agonizing together over whether to push on or turn around, commiserating about the state of the “road,” and marvelling at the uncanny, otherworldy beauty of the Manang valley knee- (sometimes waist-)deep in powder.

Fun fact: On his blog, Steve often makes light of his enormous appetite and the scoffs it engenders in locals who happen to see him sit down and dine; I hereby corroborate every word of it.  It was no rare occurrence for him to polish off his second helpings of rice and lentils before I had finished my first, and I’m pretty sure that in Darjeeling I saw him down a 3,000 calorie breakfast platter before the waiter had managed to set it on the table.

Steve’s on the last year and last leg of his trip, hoping to cross the Himalayas while it’s still possible and make it back to England sometime in 2015.   Read his blog while you still can – it’s recently been voted the tenth most popular cycle touring blog in existence , a title which I hope to steal, and mayhaps surpass, once his trip winds down!

 

 

I would also be remiss not to mention the following two dudes, whom I’ve never ridden with but who changed my life nonetheless…

 

Pablo Garcia Gomez

Pablo Garcia400x300

 

In addition to being the first every cycle tourist I met, Pablo was also my very first couchsurfing guest.  He’s been on the road for a decade and over 100,000 kilometers, and the fact that he was a normal guy that I could sit down and have a meal with (as opposed to some superstar athlete sort of fellow) must have planted some sort of seed in me.  About two years after he paid me a visit, I set out on a journey of my own.

http://www.theworldbybike.com/

Alvaro Neil, the Bicyclown

 

bicicown

Another cyclist who visited me through couchsurfing.  He had met Pablo on the road and even exchanged sleeping bags with him, so it was actually the second time that that sleeping bag had been used on my living room floor.  This was my first experience with the oddities and coincidences of long-term travel.  Alvaro cycles with ungodly amounts of gear, much of it related to his professional clowning; he travels around giving performances at schools, orphanages, jails, and elsewhere.  Amazing guy, cycling for a cause, also on the road for a decade and 130,000km and counting.

 

Thomas Stevens

aka the Grandaddy Of It All, The Original Cycle Fauxbo / Shenaniganist

stevens 220px-Thomas_Stevens_bicycle
The Man The Legend

 

I haven’t met Tom here, since he’s been six feet under for the last eighty years, but thanks to his book “Around the World on a Bicycle,” (1896), I know more about his cycle shenanigans than I do about my own.  I highly suggest you read the book for yourself (it’s free on Project Gutenberg), as it’s full of interesting details about what cycling the world was like before anyone had ever done it before.  Forget GPS and self-pitching tents –  bicycles themselves didn’t even exist in most of the places Stevens visited outside of Europe.  He often sleeps outside without shelter, fires his revolver at wild animals for sport, pushes his bikes for miles on end through country with no roads at all, “sups on naught but the memories of [his] noontide repast,” and in general kicks my ass in just about every possible way.  Oh, and he rode a penny farthing!  All this and more in the first 100 pages of volume one of the book!

From the preface:

“We found that modern mechanical invention, instead of disenchanting the universe, had really afforded the means of exploring its marvels the more surely. Instead of going round the world with a rifle, for the purpose of killing something, – or with a bundle of tracts, in order to convert somebody – this bold youth simply went round the globe to see the people who were on it; and since he always had something to show them as interesting as anything that they could show him, he made his way among all nations.”

Choice Quotations and Excerpts:

“I am suddenly confronted by a pond of liquid mud that bars my farther progress down the mountain. A recent slide of land and rock has blocked up the narrow channel of the stream, and backed up the thick yellow liquid into a pool of uncertain depth. There is no way to get around it; perpendicular walls of rock and slippery yellow clay rise sheer from the water on either side. There is evidently nothing for it but to disrobe without more ado and try the depth. Besides being thick with mud, the water is found to be of that icy, cutting temperature peculiar to cold brine, and after wading about in it for fifteen minutes, first finding a fordable place, and then carrying clothes and wheel across, I emerge on to the bank formed by the land-slip looking as woebegone a specimen of humanity as can well be imagined. Plastered with a coat of thin yellow mud from head to foot, chilled through and through, and shivering like a Texas steer in a norther, feet cut and bleeding in several places from contact with the sharp rocks, and no clean water to wash off the mud! With the assistance of knife, pocket-handkerchief, and sundry theological remarks which need not be reproduced here, I finally succeed in getting off at least the greater portion of the mud, and putting on my clothes. The discomfort is only of temporary duration; the agreeable warmth of the after-glow exhilarates both mind and body, and with the disappearance of the difficulty to the rear cornea the satisfaction of having found it no harder to overcome.”

“Business is generally suspended, and in every shady nook and corner one sees a swarthy ragamuffin stretched out at full length, perfectly happy and contented if only he is allowed to snooze the hours away in peace.”

“I emerge upon a level plateau of considerable extent, across which very fair wheeling is found; but before noon the inevitable mountains present themselves again, and some of the acclivities are trundleable only by repeating the stair-climbing process of the Kara Su Pass.”

“With something of a penchant for undertaking things never before accomplished, I proposed one morning to take a walk around the ramparts that encompass the Persian capital.”

“Inshallah! fortune will favor me with better dues to- morrow; and if not to-morrow, then the next day, or the next.”

One Response to Fellow Fauxbos

  1. Pingback: Feet in the Snow, Head in the Stars: Bikepacking the Annapurna Circuit | Three Rule Ride

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