By Perdons Les Pédales
Writing an article about our round-the-world trip is far from easy. After 650 days of extraordinary travel through 25 countries, we have to answer the famous question "What about your trip? Where to start?
In this article, we'll share three of the best moments of our life as nomadic cyclists.
We're Jade & Yanouk, a couple fresh out of school who decided to leave everything behind for a great adventure. In the midst of a pandemic in 2021, we decided to sell everything we owned and, above all, to equip Jade for her first cycling trip. We knew our choice was a risky one. Far from being a cyclist, her passion for travel encouraged her to embark on this extraordinary project. After more than a year of hard work and sacrifice, we finally took off for France for the greatest adventure of our lives. The goal: to cycle from Paris to Singapore. We invite you to discover our Youtube channel to follow our adventures.
The Perdons les pédales project is launched!
1- Meeting Kemal
On our bikes, we pique people's curiosity, and sometimes people decide to come and meet us. Such was the case with Kemal, a shepherd perched in the mountains of Turkey. Our new friend knew no English, but clearly wondered what we were doing here: a remote corner of Turkey.
Surrounded by arid, multicolored mountains, the shepherd continues to tend his sheep. He invites me to join him in his daily routine of rounding up the flock before nightfall. Kemal doesn't seem to have a dog to make his job easier. Originally from Turkey, Anatolian shepherd dogs, known as "kangals", are used to protect flocks and properties. Very robust, they often scare the hell out of cyclists. Fortunately, we didn't have any bad encounters, except for a little one we picked up on one of Jade's back panniers, but that's another story!
Back at the bivouac, Kemal seems to want to stay with us around the fire. We try to chat a little about each other's lives. The Turkish language has over 2,000 French words, so we're bound to find something. Long silences spaced our attempts at dialogue. Normally, we'd be uncomfortable, but this wasn't the case. Normally, we might feel uncomfortable, but that wasn't the case. Kemal taught us that even if we couldn't communicate verbally, we could exchange in other ways. While I had learned to herd a flock of Turkish sheep, I shared our culture by introducing him to marshmallows on the stove. Our new friend was quite surprised by this culinary discovery!
Find out more about this adventure in episode 29 on our YouTube channel. All the richness of our encounter was in the unspoken. I remember telling myself that it's for moments like this that we travel by bike.
We were experiencing something strong and unique by the simple fact that our paths crossed.
Kemal was smiling at the fire, so I smiled back.
2- The surprise of Southeast Asia
After our visit to Central Asia, we were convinced that the "worst" was behind us. Unfortunately, despite Thailand's roads and heavenly beaches, the heat was becoming unbearable. Travelling by bike also means accepting to live at Mother Nature's mercy full-time. We survived 48-degree days in the arid climate of Uzbekistan, but this is incomparable to Southeast Asia. Humidity became our number one enemy. By the time we left Vietnam, the weather was particularly beginning to affect Jade. She could hardly stand the hot days. But the problem was that we still had six months to pedal to reach our goal.
Fortunately, many people made our days more pleasant. Whether it was a cold bottle of water on the side of the road or invitations to sleep over, we're taking away a lot of positives from our time in this part of the world. In fact, of the 25 countries we visited, we highly recommend Thailand for cyclovoyageurs looking for their first experience abroad. The roads are beautiful, the drivers are courteous and the people are extremely kind and generous: all of which is complemented by incredible scenery and food. But don't forget your sun cream!
3- Climbing in Kyrgyzstan
The landscapes of Kyrgyzstan will remain forever etched in our memories, but it's our legs that will remember the terrible gradients! Apart from the main road to Bishkek, the roads quickly become impassable. After a few weeks in the country, we wanted to reach Lake Son Kul on the other side of the mountains. But we knew it wasn't going to be easy. At the foot of the final climb, on the occasion of our first year on the world's roads and accompanied by our English cyclo-copains, we left the last refreshment station. We were counting on two days of climbing, two days of cycling around the lake and one day of descending. So we loaded our bikes with 15 liters of water, adding another 15 kilos.
Little did we know, we were in for one of the most intense days of our entire trip. On the morning of the second day, a man arrived in an old car and offered us a bottle shaped like a Coca-Cola. Normally, we'd be over-excited about this gift, but here, the milky-white contents augured nothing delicious. In fact, we had just received fermented mare's milk: "koumis". The man, with a smile on his face, handed it to us and said: strong strong.
The beverage didn't give us the strength we were looking for, but instead left us with a very special taste memory. But at last, we could begin our hardest day's ascent: a rocky path with an incline of over 18%. Little did we know at the time that we'd never get into the saddle.
As we took time for lunch, Jade decided to go ahead and push her bike at her own pace. We didn't see her again until we reached the summit.
It took us five hours of pushing to reach the lake plateau at an altitude of 3250m. We could finally admire Son Kul below. A mixture of joy and pride washed over us. The most impressive part of the story is that Jade reached the summit two hours before us, and even came down to help us push our bikes up the last few meters. Yes, this is the same person I described at the start of this article as a cycling neophyte. That day, Jade proved that bike travel isn't just for athletes, experienced riders or men.
After catching my breath, I sat in the saddle for the first time that day. It was 3pm, I looked at my odometer and realized that we'd only covered 5 kilometers. We set up the tent and told ourselves that tomorrow was another day.