We’re back! We have been quiet on our blog for the last few weeks as we were busy cycling and escaping the starting monsoon season.
After Matt spent one month in Kuala Lumpur and I enjoyed my family and friend’s company in Switzerland, we both flew back to Bangkok. It was wonderful to see each other again after 4 weeks apart. Matt couldn’t believe all the new gear that I brought from our sponsors hajk, Transa, VeloPlus, Abus and Alpina. Thank you again so much for your ongoing support guys!
In Bangkok we were welcomed into the house of the wonderful sisters Anou and Ratchna from Australia. They offered us to store our bicycles in their house in Bangkok whilst we were away. It is needless to say, that we enjoyed a few days in their villa with 4 maids, 1 driver and the wonderful Chin, who organized the whole stay for us. After a luxurious few days, we were ready and full of motivation to tackle the last 3 months of bicycle touring to Australia.
At this point we also have a big announcement to make: We have decided to settle down in Melbourne after our bike journey! Since we left for the trip, Matt has got two new baby nephews, we cannot wait to live closer to them. At the moment we are looking into visa options for me to stay in Australia. As Switzerland is not part of the Work and Holiday visa agreement, I cannot get one of these visas. For a work visa I do not have enough working experience in my field (I only worked for one year after I graduated) and for a partner visa we must proof that we have been living together for at least one year, which is a bit complicated in our case too. At the moment, we are looking into a study visa, we’ll see. Matt is already applying for jobs, he wishes to work as a Reliability Engineer in the rail sector in Melbourne, if you have any tips, let us know.
After we finish our trip, we will spend one month with Matt’s family and especially with Matt’s nephews Finn, Bobby and Alby. In January my parents will travel to Australia to meet Matt’s family and explore Australia with us for 4 weeks. After this we hope to find jobs, organize a visa for me and settle into a little flat in Melbourne by the end of February 2019.
Now, back to the stories on the road. Some might not to be able to believe the km’s we cycle, some think its crazy. We began this journey, untrained and at just a ‘healthy’ level of fitness. We began with our bums aching, happy to have completed 30km by lunch, and the Swiss Alps making us consider if our decision to cycle for the next year and a half was foolish. Fast forward 15 months and we have just finished our longest day ride of 157km. We both agree that the ability to complete these kilometers is not such a physical challenge but more a mental. For us, It takes 9 hours of riding to complete these kilometers. Naturally, our mind begins to wander into the strangest of thoughts. Out of the blue we find ourselves shouting the most peculiar thoughts at each other “Do you like Mercedes cars?”, “PANCAKES” and “We should make our own Yoghurt!”.
The body adapts in incredible ways. Muscle builds where it is need and deteriorates where it is neglected. From first impressions, we can look homeless. My hair (Matt now speaking) is now at my shoulders in a sweaty tangled mess and conversations with locals have them consistently guessing our age in the mid-30’s (Matt is only 27 and Jasi 25). I have lost 14kgs and have noticed my decreased upper body strength when I need to lift our bikes up a flight of stairs (Jasi isn’t happy that she is still the exact same weight as when we started the trip. “The world is not fair”, cries Jasi, but she has no weight to lose I think). Our legs are not bulging with muscle, but tight with sinew. We have learnt that balancing a budget whilst searching for a high calorie diet for the cycling ahead can be a tricky process. One we haven’t at all mastered. We are a little embarrassed to say, that our staple go-to snack is a pack of crunchy dried noodles, uncooked. We promised each other that once we reach Australia, there is no excuse to eat instant noodles anymore!
Snacking on a packet of crunchy noodles, sitting on a cracked plastic chair under the shade of a roadside stall umbrella, watching the tens of scooters zoom by, dripping in sweat, we often ask ourselves “why are we putting ourselves through all this?”. As we look at each other, you hope that you don’t look as exhausted and tired as the other. I remember starting this journey, thinking “This is not going to be a holiday Matt”. Time after time, it has been the locals that have lifted our spirits. By inviting us to their home, handing us a cold glass of water or offering their advice and help.
“Can we book two tickets on the next train please”, I asked the ticket officer.
The monsoon had won for now. Our shoes squelched with every step, our skin was wrinkled and whitened, and only damp clothes awaited us to change into. We stood dripping, listening to the pelting rain muffle the tones of the loudspeaker, announcing the arriving trains. “So sorry sir, but next train tomorrow”, his smile kind but his eyes looked me up and down with caution. Tapping again at his computer, “Train tomorrow, 6am, you must buy ticket on day of train”.
Turning to Jasi, she held both bicycles, balancing them as the locals made they busy ways around her.
Turning back to the ticket officer, swiping my hair from my face, and placing it behind my ear, pressing a smile together. “Can we, please, book a ticket for tomorrow train now?”
“Sorry sir, only on day of travel”, clicking his pen, then peering behind me at the next awaiting customer. My smile was now an uncomfortable grimace, “Please”. He stared to the ceiling for a moment, then back to my eyes, and then finally released a childish grin. “Ok, Can. He jumped straight back to his keyboard, happily tapping away the details of our ticket.
At the beginning of this adventure, the climate and landscape suited to the most magical wild camping adventures. Now in South East Asia, the idea of sleeping in our tent is a last resort. Temperatures remain in the high 20’s and our durable, 4 season tent that kept us warm in the highlands of Iran and Georgia, now acts as a slow cooker. We have developed a strategy of sleeping on our side, to minimize the amount of our body pressed into the warm surfaces. We are still often left with no other option and find ourselves camping in a friendly Thai families garden with their 4 security dogs circling and barking at the tent for the entire night.
The craziness of Thailand and of Asia is now part of our daily lives. We arrived in India 8 months ago, and since this time, we have only seen variations of this chaos. We are as comfortable as one can be with scooters buzzing by inches away and with locals bumping by with trays of colorful food, and we still love it. You can never get enough of watching these people at the operate at the pace they do. Eating out, Jasi and I find ourselves not talking to each other, just staring at the ordered chaos that fills every corner store restaurant.
We have loved our multiple visits to “The land of a thousand smiles”. We leave with memories of such kind and respectful people, incredible food, and the lingering taste of mango sticky rice forever. We make our way to Malaysia, a first predominantly Muslim country since Oman, and we are excited to get back. I know many friendly invites are awaiting us!
Talk to you soon
Matt and Jasi