It was a surreal feeling to be boarding our flight out of China. We had spent nearly as much time in this one country as we had in the ten European countries we cycled through. I was excited that my grandpa, dad, and brother were meeting us in Nepal that same night. The four of us had planned a seven-day excursion through the Himalayans. Joel was awaiting his friends Lance and Sara to arrive shortly after my family. They had a couple of connections in Kathmandu and were looking forward to serving the people locally for the week. After spending four and a half months on the road alone, this little break from our bikes and the arrival of familiar faces was exciting for both Joel and I.
We spent the first day in Kathmandu exploring the city and enjoying the familiar feeling of being surrounded by gorgeous mountains. My family and I left the next day to Pokhara to begin our Himalayan adventure while Joel stayed at the apartment to wait for Lance and Sara. This would be the longest duration of time Joel and I have been apart since June! It was a little weird not waking up next to him in a tent every morning.
Trekking through some of the world’s largest mountains in the company of three generations of family was incredible. My grandpa was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s, but such small things have never stopped a determined and stubborn man. Quite an accomplishment for a sixty-eight-year-old! How often do you hear of a grandfather, a son-in-law and grandsons trekking through some of the world most renowned mountains together? Something none of us are soon to forget.
While my family and I climbed mountains, Joel, Lance and Sara lined up some time with a local friend and spent a few days hanging out and playing football with some of the kids in the low-income areas of Kathmandu. They got the chance to see what life in like for children whose parents struggle to make ends meet financially. They had opportunities to pray with people and hear stories about the amazing people living and working in these poor areas.
Our last few days in Kathmandu together was second chance to explore, try some local cuisine and have some fun. The good-bye was super hard. Two weeks goes by in a flash. Nevertheless, Joel and I still had the last bit of biking before entering India. We took an overnight bus to the town of Dhara, approximately 120kms from the Indian border. It was the bumpiest, most unstable and dirty transport we’ve taken in five months. As expected, I did not sleep at all and came down with some sort of illness – but we made it. We were dropped off at 5:30am in the city centre of Dhara where we had to reassemble our bikes in the middle of morning rush hour. From there we headed to a cheap hotel where I was able to sleep off this crazy sickness.
We woke up early on November 15th with the intention of crossing into India. After five months of cycling, you would sooner assume we would be ecstatic to finally ride into India. That was not necessarily the case. We felt more relieved rather than accomplished as we approached our end point. That honest state of emotion was a testament to our months of endurance. Even though our trip was full of joy and adventure, it felt like we had been in survival mode since we landed in Amsterdam. Crossing into India was a symbol of our return to sanity. It is a tough emotional switch to explain in one paragraph. Obviously we were excited, but mostly just happy to put our bikes away.
Once we reached India, we had some confusion trying to figure out our exit and arrival stamps between countries. Thanks to that delay, we coincidentally crossed paths with Lance and Sara and were able to hitch a ride to our homestay at a local church in Siliguri pastored by Ben Issacs and his family. We had already biked 120kms that day, and Metanoia Community Church was another 40kms from the border, so both Joel and I appreciated the ride very much!
That night, we sat around the dinner table at the Issacs’ house and Ben explained to us two of more crucial needs of some of the members of his community. Firstly, an elderly woman living alone in a bamboo shack. Secondly, a single mother of four who was being taken advantage of by her landlord. Both were in need of immediate help. We decided to build a small building on the church’s property so the six of them could live safe and free from anyone looking to take advantage of them and the children. We had a number of you from back home get behind this financially and we want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts! Lighthouse Voyage was also generous in backing a portion of this project. These six amazing women and children now feel safe and cared for amongst a loving community. Feel free to check out the video to see more!
We ended our time in Siliguri by taking a day trip up near the China/India border. We drove six hours into the winding hills of the Himalayans. On the edge of the borders, Joel, Lance, Sara and I had the opportunity to ride Yak’s around a holy lake, 3200m above sea level. A once in a lifetime experience for all of us. It is amazing to see how people live and farm way up in the mountains. The people in India are extremely friendly and hospitable and the food is so delicious. The four of us raced back down the mountain after lunch, ate a quick dinner and headed to catch our overnight train to Kolkata.
One of the biggest hurdles of being in India at this time is the cash crisis. For those of you who haven’t heard much about this, please check it out on whichever new outlet you primarily use. It’s not the ideal time to be a tourist in India. Even getting supplies to build the small house was an interesting process. This country is in chaos right now in terms of money. We have been forced to prioritize purchases that take credit card. In a cash economy like India, that is much harder than you’d think. The small bit of cash we do have is saved for emergencies only. We ask that you keep the people out here in your prayers. It is a trying time for most of the lower class as the situation continues.
As we enter into this final month of our trip, it’s hard not to reflect on how the previous five have unfolded. The things we’ve seen, the people we’ve met and the places we’ve been. The world seems so much smaller. Spending our days with people rather than only each other is such a relief. Not that we are sick of one another, but being with other people is so much better. We are back to being moderately part of a larger community. On the road, you feel alone majority of the time. Being surrounded by people feels different than it did five months ago.
We are both looking forward to being back home with all of you people. You’ve read these blogs, you kept up on Facebook and seen our stories on Instagram. Being home and sharing with everyone in person is going to be so much better – I promise. There is so much that we were unable to share via social media that we are excited to share when we see you all again! 18 days, friends!
Miss you all – Brad and Joel
Be sure to check out the videos from this portion of the trip as well!