Hunkered, hunched, and shivering, the mind retraces the steps that led this body here. Seeking maximal weather protection from a minimal motorcycle, I watch the tormented clouds drag a curtain of cold and wet across the plain between us and the small village where everything changed so quickly.
Waiting is not easy, so the arrival of a second motorcycle and a second and third brother and a pump is a welcome sight for rain-pelted eyes. Acting quickly, air once again fills the tire, but all is not well because the chain has been damaged. The kinked links are straightened after a few swift knocks with a fist-sized rock, and two motorcycles and four people race back through the rain to the village, where their family and my friends await our return.
Why is anyone out in this weather? In hopes of retrieving an item smaller than a stick of gum.
The camera, and the tiny SD card, and the thousands of photos of nearly three months of travel through some of the most amazing landscapes and skyscapes we have ever seen are gone. And the feeling that you now have after reading that sentence has been our companion for the last few days.
We will never be able to share with you the photos of Song Kol, of the people we have met, of incredible places where we set up our tent, of really crazy places we have slept because we are cycling and sometimes that means you just have to stop, and sleep where you are, and sometimes that place is behind a gas station, or buried in some bushes, or on top of the world.
There is the picture of the bob trailer's wheel so caked with sticky mud that it no longer turns, socks covered in barbs that require pliers to remove, morels discovered while kicking clear a spot for the tent, pushing our bikes through snow, our faces after 130km with lots of hills, the three year-old Uzbek boy wearing my sunglasses, a rainbow emerging from the head of a Lenin statue, the one of... I can barely write because my stomach hurts to think of the images that are gone. Look at this one, it is amazing. This one would be great to accompany an article we could write for a magazine. I can't wait for the slideshows during which we share these incredible experiences with all of our friends and family...
What is the lesson? Maybe I shouldn't think so much about what will happen in the future, and I should be present here in these amazing places with the wonderful people here. And one in particular. Small circles. One breath.
We rode into Mongolia on August 17th. I don't know that I have ever been anyplace where the actual so closely matches the imagined. Leaving Russia, the customs guard told us, "In Mongolia, no asphalt." Western Mongolia and the vastness these words conjure are accurate. Mountains and hills of grass and no asphalt. The sky continued its fickle trend of the past month threatening rain. Fifteen days of rain, four days of sun, fifteen days of rain.
On August 19th, we stood atop a pass with all of our flags snapping in the strong breeze. A "Mongol Rally" car rolled up alongside, and some non-Mongolian faces who had spent the last five weeks driving from London greeted us from within. The Australian driver asked, "Houze yer trip?"
What do you say?
Well, as you can see from your comfortable seat there within that car, it is a whole lot different than yours. It is one of the most difficult things I have ever done. We have been ill, we have had a trailer break, we have had flat tires, we have frozen, we have melted, we have been told that people will slit our throats and steal our money, invited warmly into people's homes, then asked to pay for the mutton noodles that we did not want but which we ate in order to be polite, we have been unable to communicate, we have been chased by dogs, run off the road by crazy drivers, harassed by drunks, swarmed by biting bugs...and yesterday our camera was probably stolen, and this morning...
"Good, and yours?"
On that high pass, was a pretty low point, but as so often happens, something remarkable happened after they drove away. We began our bumpy descent. Choosing whichever dirt track appeared to have the smoothest rough surface we headed towards the town of Olgii. Before too long, we saw a path that looked very smooth.
Pavement. A ribbon of smooth new asphalt laid down as if by seraphs in safety vests. 30km downhill on smooth pavement with tailwinds and no traffic through the most spectacular mountain scenery; popping because of the clouds and sun lighting the valleys and summits. And with each kilometer passing, perspective gained. The list of people and things for which to be thankful is always so much longer than the list of things for which one might gripe. And the list starts with this one breath. This moment is the only one we ever have, so we might as well enjoy it.
We hope you are enjoying yours.
Take care and have fun-
Tyler and Adrianne
PS- Healing thoughts.