Happy Tibetan fire rooster New Year
May all your roosters be free-ranging and delicious. And may fires warm your homes without burning them down. (A non-traditional and non-Tibetan new years greeting)
Here in Hong Kong the air is crisp, the skies sort-of blue and the mountains behind my home up in the North Eastern New Territories, dun coloured – like the ones in the opening scenes of MASH, but with intense burst of colours with the blooming of spring flowers.
The mountains are calling me up to the trails of the Maclehose – my training grounds for our April cycle trips in the Himalayas.
Wine – a whole case of Spanish reds delivered last week by Castello del Vino (product placement)is also calling.
In what order do I proceed?
2017 is a year for new destinations as well as a few longer trips – and all with wine in one form or another:
Join us for a palm toddy in Myanmar in March (7 days (and just 8 days away now));rakshi in Nepal in April (7 days); fermented mares milk in Mongolia in July (10 days) and classical romanesque grape wines in Spain in September.
Squeezed in-between are our Fujian, Guangxi and Guizhou weekend rides – quick short-notice getaways designed for Hong Kong and China expats who want a fresh air escape in between the fast paced working weeks.
Both tea and rice-wine are the beverages of choice for these exotic South China destinations.
Wine, bikes and the open road. Cheers to 2017!
March in Myanmar
Thant Myint-U, who wrote the The River of Lost Footsteps argues that visiting Burma is an act of bearing witness, and supportive of a change-demanding slowly growing middle class. He has been voted one of the worlds best thinkers, by magazines that I have never heard of but which sound quite intellectual – and reading his book has me feeling both excited and good about going back to Burma in just ten days time.
Assonance is always an attractive advertising application and my excuse for inconsistent place name usage. Is it Burma or is it Myanmar?
Have your own say as you peddle past pagodas, proudly plus passionately proclaiming PC pre-eminence all the way to Pagan (the former name of that stunning temple-strewn plain in Upper Myurma, now known as Bagan).
Our 7 day Mandalay to Bagan Big Burma Bicycle Blast is mostly flat, fully supported, and about to depart. Next trip is 12-18th March (IN JUST 11 DAYS) and then not until October.
April in Nepal
Mountains, sherpas, rhododendrons, dhal bhat, spicy tea, pizzas with popcorn as topping (that was a long time ago), good-looking trekking types, and now good looking cycling-types using the worlds highest mountains to sculpt the perfect glutes (thats us) – are just a few of the delights that the land of snows has to offer.
Really, it’s not as hard a ride as it sounds (or else my training last year really paid off!).
Stunning scenery always lightens and energises!
The ride proper starts in Ghorka, of Ghurka warrior fame, and traverses the mid hill country alongside the central and western Himalaya. Sanjay – our support vehicle driver, who just happened to be a very keen Mountain Bike Rider himself – said of the roads last year that they were some of the most beautiful he has driven in his long career as a driver. He’d not been on them before which shows how off the beaten track this ride is!
Manaslu, Lamjung, Ganesh himal and the Annapurnas, are the companion peaks to this ride which finishes up at the lakes of Pokhara – the perfect place to chill out after an active three/ four day ride. We had a one of the best nights out at the Busy Bee Bar in POkhara – a name that doesn’t do justice to what a rocking little mosh-pit this lakeside pub really is.
April 5-11 is our Rhododendron ride. Rhododendrons are gnarled old Mirkwood forest trees that burst into Technicolor brilliance in April. Add on our 4 day trek to Poon Hill and Ghorepani on the Annapurna circuit for the best of these flowery-forests – whole mountainsides slopes of crimson and yellow blooms.
Bizzarre Bazzars is Nepal trip I am designing to run concurrently with our biking trip – a more luxe, soft core culture and markets focussed trip for those who might not be as enamoured with the combination of Himalayan hills and pedals as their partners.
A foodie bike festival in Yangshuo in May
Our fourth Yangshuo Bike festival kicks off in the cascading rice terraces of Longji in the lands of the Zhuang and long haired yao (featured on our festival poster and on this years festival T-shirt).
This years festival focuses on the fruits of the fields and the stunning regional cuisines of the minority Yao and Zhuang. Its early summer(before things get too hot) with lush and green rice in the paddies, and the ingredients of a feast all around us. Cycle through stunningly rustic farm-scapes squeezed in between Yangshuo’s dragon teeth limestone mountains.
We will continue the musical journey that is the Yangshuo Bike Festival 14,15 and 2016, with zither players accompanying our pre dinner cocktails, archaists with tea, and the rolling disco de wheels.
May 12-14 is the main event with our stunning Longji – Guilin extension ride from the 9th.
Mongolia in July: A Ride to the Naadam
Another Yangshuo Bike Festival branded event – this ride is bucketlist material. The grasslands will be a giant fiesta of wild flowers in July – the warmest month in this Siberia-abutting land. Our nomad partners are assisting us in finding a shaman who might grace us with the traditional ecological knowledge of one of the worlds most interesting societies and former empires. Riding, camping and home staying, we make our way across the grasslands to the biggest bash of the year – the two day horse racing, archery and wrestling festival that is the Ulan Batur Naadam.
Early bird rates have expired already, but Bike Aways newsletter readers – will be extended the january early bird rate of USD 2400 until March 15th. We have ten places to fill.
Spain in September
Five years ago I visited a friend in Pamplona on something of a whim. I was invited on a three day bike ride in the surrounding countryside, which happened to be on El Camino Santiago – The Way of St James, aka a proselytising mission of one of Jesus’ more grumpy disciples who met his own end just one hundred miles short of Finisterre – the end of the world.
I learnt all this as I peddled not just three days, but more than two weeks along what is now the most famous Christian pilgrimage in the world, overlaying an ancient and all but forgotten pagan pilgrimage,evolving into the battle lines of the medieval knights who were defending the faith against the advancing Moors (in the parlance of the day).
El Camino De Santiago is a fascinating slice of pagan, Roman, Christian, knights-templar, New Age (Paulo Coelho), post-modern-jaded (Emilio Estevez) and soon to be Bike Aways, history.
As a spiritual journey, i believe the Camino should be walked. But as a fun and friendly connoisseurs trip: think wine, (pinxos as they call tapas along much of The Way), quaint refugios, sumptuous paradores, fresh peaches and salamis from local farmers markets, cafe con leche with churros at convivial cafes, and Michelin dining opportunities as they present, it is great fun on a bike and in a group of like minded people.
Our ride will be a slice of the Camino rather than the whole pie, so that you’ll want to come back again and again on what will be a continuous rolling feast over the next five years, or a solo pilgrimage on foot, as I plan to do one day.
We are still working on dates and an itinerary, but a magnificent partner is already lined up with September currently being tossed around as a possibility.
As a photographer I rate this as my favourite destination in China.
Last year we ran a commissioned textiles tour from which my mind immediately flips to an image of a Miao (Hmong) festival in procession for about two kilometres – a sea of Indigo and silver, with one standout tribe that i’d never heard of before – the hunting Miao who were smeared in mud and carried a hunting dog on a sedan chair dressed up like a Daoist God. This is the sort of place Guizhou still is. I want to be on every Guizhou ride that I list
take advantage of the long weekend from 29th April – May 1 to join The Indigo Road – our three day Guizhou ride through the prettiest lands in Guizhou – the South East.
Another textiles trip will run in October. Exact dates are pending the announcement of a few festivals that we want to tie in.
Dates and Private Bookings
Please feel free to tell us when you want to travel, or come to us with a group and we may be able to tailor a ride around your dates.
And some quotes to finish with:
“Adventure is worthwhile.” Aesop (short but sweet)
The war we have to wage today has only one goal and that is to make the world safe for diversity. U Thant
“If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or is a Gurkha.” Famous (apparently) Gurkha Saying