“What next?“.. it is a question I am hearing with increasing frequency from friends and ex-colleagues.. Of course I know full well that what they really mean is “when are you going to stop messing about and get a proper job?” words that have followed me ever since one very (very, very) short reversed charges phone call to my father from northern Sumatra on my birthday back in 1996. When I hear it however of course it really means “where next?”. While it is true that to some people I suppose I have been dossing around in the almost 14 months since I left my aeronautical career it has been a most worthwhile exercise what with the two-wheeled return to S America and summer guiding in the Hebrides.. and in between the development of those carbon surf kayak fins that made it to the world championships on the bottom of a boat in the British team… more satisfying than that however is that friends are using them and enjoying their performance benefits. In the year or so since making the decision to leave my employer I’ve managed to earn a grand total of less than £2000, hehe… but I haven’t exactly been trying very hard it has to be said. I’m lucky in that I have no family to support and I have savings behind me.. besides, these kind of transitions from ’employed’ to ‘free agent’ are bound to take time.. aren’t they…;-) It’s not all about ££ though is it… so far the non-monetary benefits have been huge, mostly my health.. stress is no longer a feature. I am enjoying life immensely and it shows in the absence of the severe eczema that blighted much of the last 8 years or so..
Anyway, enough of that, I’m in danger of getting boringly introspective… so what next indeed. Well, inevitably as the rain lashes against the window a significant proportion of my mind is always thinking about the next adventure. I don’t have firm plans but I do have a woolly sort of idea along the lines of big mountains and deserts… think Tibetan Plateau kind of a place… though sadly the Chinese will not allow a cyclist to go there independently… fortunately however there are plenty of other similar places. It is hard to describe, all my life I have had a yearning to be in such epic places, every time I see a picture in a book or on TV I feel an overwhelming desire to be there, on my bike. I’m just not really a rainforest kind of a guy…
I shall illustrate… in my recent delves into my archives I came across a set of pictures I am sure I have not published before… a grand excuse for a blog post in it’s own right I think. I took these in 2001 on a journey through northern Pakistan into China’s Xinjiang Province and they illustrate perfectly the kind of place I feel the need to ride. This is approx 12,000ft up on the edge of the Pamir, a wonderfully remote place characterised by vast, dry plateaus and monumental peaks. To see where I am click this link to open a satellite image in Google Maps .
So places that are on the list..a return to the Himalayas definitely.. which part.. not sure yet – it could be India, Pakistan, China.. or Nepal.. in such a vast area there is so much to do… the only potential spanner in my Himalayan plan is a similarly strong desire to revisit northern Argentina in slow time. I loved it there and ticks all the right boxes.. wonderful people, arid mountain wilderness on a monumental scale… and the icecream is among the best in the world too. At the time I was heading for Bolivia but could not help but recognise the potential for a leisurely couple of months exploring the backcountry in that northwestern corner.
It is going to be almost a year before any of this happens I suspect. Opportunities have come my way to make my way in a different, and very much more fun kind of working environment so despite the fact that a highly corrupting influence in the form of a friend of mine heading to Nepal last week with her bike dangled a very attractive cycling adventure flavoured carrot I got all responsible and declined in favour of spending the winter at home in Cornwall and knuckling down to some ‘work’. My one concern is that is winter is the best time for good surf… I shall have to have a scrape around down the back of the proverbial sofa for some self discipline.
I’d also like to make a sea kayak expedition in the Aleutian Islands where something like 20 active volcanoes stick up out of the Bering Sea… damn..