India a special journey

May 15th, 2013

On my birthday this year, I went to India, to go to Rishikesh and the Himalayas. If you don’t know Rishikesh, it lies on the banks of the River Ganges where the river finally twists its way out of the foothills of the Himalayas before feeding the plains of India. This is a very important place for many Indians of different faiths and it’s a place where on Krista’s first world bike ride she spent a lot of time. Rishikesh proved to be a very influential and spirit fuelling place. Krista often told me it was her favourite place in India and she’d show me one day.

One year on from her passing I knew I wanted to be somewhere special and somewhere I’d not been before, a place I could try to connect with a part of Krista’s life I’d not seen. Last year she took me to Tenterfield on my birthday a place not so far from where we lived in NSW Australia, where we walked in the reddening autumn forests, Krista said she was starting to feel better. A week later she was gone, she left her body 150m below a waterfall, my heartbreak has not left me for a moment. We gathered for Krista’s funeral exactly a year ago today, personally, I know losing Krista is the hardest experience I will face in my life, from this I can find strength in the feeling that things can and will only become easier.

So pushing myself to step out of my comfort zone alone into the world and travel has been a great builder of faith, I’ve done a couple of things now that have been a big positive distraction and have lifted me. I learnt to Ski in March, spending a week in the Austrian Alps and the charity football match I played in this weekend with Tottenham Hotspurs legends has been a source of focus, training with the lads and enjoying the team spirit again. Playing sport and doing exercise have always been a great boost in my life and I’m sure I’ll also find the joy of playing music again soon, that’s proving a little bit more emotional.

As for even communicating emotions such as these, that’s been the hardest, it doesn’t get any easier and to express these deep feelings in words in public is………… Well, I don’t know, maybe I’ve done it here, as hard as it is at this poignant time!

I don’t write this for pity’s sake or to pull at the heartstrings of others, but just because I should probably try to express, so you know I am still alive and kicking and not just the football. Above all, this time is a big deal for me I feel I must speak to honour the love Krista and I share and to respect my emotions.

Anyway, one thing I do know is that mountains make me smile and feel as alive as ever, I think I gained this from our bike ride from England to Pakistan, we spent a lot of time at altitude high in the mountains. At home I can easily lie in bed in a morose state till 10 am! But in the mountains I clearly feel excited to wake up in the morning before the sun rises to see them and I don’t want to sleep till it’s too dark to see them, it’s like spending the day with Krista and getting lost in her eyes.

An old friend I bumped into the other day told me she wanted to see some photos of India it was her chance of travelling there. So here are some words to explain the photos and what I was doing in India………….. To the mountains!

I arrived at Delhi airport via Istanbul, exchanged currency and got my bag before taking the metro to New Delhi train station. When I made my way outside the sun was up and it was already hot, at only 6 am with that pre-monsoon sweat in the air.

Dodging through the traffic consisting of 6 lanes of cycle rickshaws, vikrams, ox-an carts, cycles and taxis crawling along, I trudged over to the train station and joined the cues hustling towards their platforms. Once there, it was all quite calm and I found my name on the passenger list along with a seat number in an air-conditioned carriage, what a relief.

The train to Hardwar took 5-7 hours and luckily I was woken up as the train pulled in. So as I stepped off the train I was hassled by 50 or more taxi drivers and hotel workers offering their service, I wiped the sleep from my eyes and got my bearings finally remembering the last next leg of the journey was to get a ride to Rishikesh, an hour by road. I took the offer of a bloke who’d been following me offering help since I came through the train station. I wasn’t sure if I’d negotiated a good price, but had to trust I’d get to where I was hoping.

I recognised Rishikesh from the photos I’d seen and walked over Ram Jula bridge dodging the motorbikes and their incessant horn blasting. Meandering through the streets, stepping over the cow shit and around the lazy beasts that wondered right through the bazar I eventually found the guesthouse I’d booked.

Rishikesh didn’t seem quite so peaceful at first with the constant beeping of motorbike horns but that was probably since I was so tired. So it took me a day or two longer to plan my trip north into the Himalayas than I expected. In that time I walked around Parmath Niketan Ashram where Krista stayed during her time in Rishikesh in fact I planned that well, It was right next door to where I was staying. The heat soon had me down by the riverside dipping in and out of the Ganges, its waters nice and cooling flowing from the mountains and glaciers high above. That’s where I wanted to go to spread some of Krista’s ashes, high up stream where the waters at its purest melting from the mountains, I wanted to be there to honour Krista on the day a year after she passed away.

However, everyone I asked in Rishikesh told me I was too early in the year to get close to the source of the Ganges, that the valley of the flowers where I’d hoped to go was closed till mid May and that the temples in Badrinath and Kedanarth where closed. Also the villages deep in the mountains near the glacial melt that forms the mighty Ganges River were still deep in snow. So I decided to take a bus as for north as I could and get off at Joshimat, from there a road went up to a ski resort where I could trek up into the mountains and be sure of an almighty mountain view.

So I got up early to catch the bus to Joshimat, passing the Ghats, it was still dark at 5am. There were different people around the bazar opening there shops and setting up for the day, I nearly got run down by a heard of mules as their owner Gee-ed them along. I crossed the bridge but there were no vikrams so I walked for 15 minutes till a driver passed and picked me up. At the bus stand I found the bus without too much hassle.

To Joshimath

10 bumpy sickening hours later after weaving through the mountains and stopping to pick up every village and town person north of Rishikesh we completed the 265km drive and arrived at Auli, not bad for £4. On the bus were a Russian guy and Nepalese lad who both spoke English, they came up to Auli with me and we found some cheap and woeful accommodation!



The hovel I stayed in turned out an amazing view to wake up to. The silvery silhouettes I saw in the distance before I went to sleep were actually mountains; the cloud had obscured mostly all the mountains when I’d arrived the afternoon before. Brilliant big mountains piercing the sky, I was so happy the bus ride had been worth it.


A beautiful clear sky came into colour as I walked upwards and found the Temple, flags and bells and a lone cheerful worshiper singing his mantras. I walked around for a few hours and found some better accommodation….. well at least I thought so. Later on when I wanted a shower, there was none of the hot water I been promised; I knew I should have checked for my self! But it had a very special view of Nanda Devi Mountain and that was the reason to go there.












When I met up with the two guys from the bus they’d arranged a guide and some mules to take them up the mountain to a place where there was enough snow to ski, looking around it was clear that there was never going to be a place to ski. But there was a third steed so I jumped on and rode up the mountain through the deodar forest, they took us to their ski run which was all of 100 meters!






So while they had ski lessons I looked around and started to be tempted by the top, I could see a possible route following a ridge and said my goodbye to the others.


I edged my way upwards to the mountaintop walking over the snowfields, trying to cross where they were not too large. The locals called the mountain Gorson.







At the top I found a place for some of Krista’s ashes, a tall cairn that marked the summit which was hollowed out like it had a belly, with a red flag wrapped around a stick the belly that opened to the view of the mighty Himalayas was made for it looking north toward Tibet about 100miles away.


I took out of my pocket three wild flowers I’d picked and from my bag the pot containing some of Krista’s ashes and poured a heart shape around them. I held out my hand full for ashes and let the wind blew through them sprinkling them onto the cairn.













12 months on I’d found the thing I wanted to do on this day and so as first light filled the sky I began to climb the mountain again where yesterday I poured Krista’s ashes into a heart. Himalayan flowers I took from the forest attached to my bag I felt my heart pounding through the still morning silence only the chirp of the birds to be heard. I needed this day to myself and the mountains gave it.





I picked my route well and kicked footsteps into the frozen snow focussed not to slip, but reach the top safely after four hours of pounding up hill. The cairn held the heart and I placed the flowers and lit candles to make my ceremony. It was ok, I felt calm and sure of my actions. But when the clouds came they threatened to engulf me so I made my way down below the peak and found a hiding place where I sheltered out of the wind. On the final decent my emotions caught me and toiled with my mind and sorry heart making me sob my eyes dry.












That evening I made some friends at the rest house who had a arranged a lift back to Rishikesh the next day, they needed extra passengers to share the cost so I jumped in with them and went by car back to the holy river.

Down at the Ghat near Parmath Niketan I bathed in the river. At sunset I poured ashes amongst the flowers I’d brought and waited till it was dark. With the incense stick burning when it was dark enough I lit the wax and butter wick and let the flowers float down stream their latten flickering all the way to the bend in the river. The hardest moment came when I took a hand full of ashes and held my hand in the water, opening my palm watching the cloud of grey colour the water was like knowingly letting go of Krista’s hand for the last time.

Krista’s birthday

November 1st, 2012

Happy Birthday Belle Belle.

Sadly Krista is not here with us to celebrate her birthday, her beautiful being is immortal now.

The 1st of November will always be your birthday but we lost you on the 26th of April this year, today I will have a special day for you, walking in the woods kicking autumn leaves and enjoying their crunch. We’ll make a pot of chai and an orange almond cake.

You visited me in my dream last night Krista, it wasn’t fleeting at all and was more tech-nicolour and fulfilling than any of my waking  moments, please come again soon, I miss you.

I Love You Always Krista

Danny xxx

ride for the rainforest – the story!

May 13th, 2011

Ride for the Rainforest 2011 was a great success!

Read the first installment by clicking here.

Read the second installment by clicking here.

If you would like to Ride for the Rainforest with us, please drop us a line via our contact page.

Story courtesy of Obi MacDonald-Saint. Thanks Obi!

rise up nimbly

March 26th, 2011

To be on another journey feels so great.


As Rumi says:

Rise up nimbly

and go on your strange journey

to the ocean of meanings.


The stream knows

it can’t stay on the mountain.

Leave and don’t look away

from the sun as you go,

in whose light

you’re sometimes crescent,

sometimes full.


Ride for the Rainforest 2011

February 20th, 2011

Tomorrow, Dan and I head 7 degrees north of the Equator to Ride for the Rainforest.

Ride for the Rainforest is a bike ride across Sri Lanka to raise money for Rainforest Rescue, our favourite not-for-profit organisation, who are committed to Protecting Rainforests Forever.

It will be awesome, and we can’t wait!

This is the first big bike ride we’ve done since RideHimalaya… We’re leading a group of 9 Australian cyclists 300 kilometres, from the ancient city of Kandy, to the highest point on the island, Nuwara Eliya, into the Sinharaja rainforest, and down to the coast at Galle.

So over the next couple of weeks, think of us, sitting in those saddles for eight hours a day, puffing up those steep mountain tracks, and free-wheeling back down again with the wind on our faces. We love it!

If you’d like to join us, subscribe to our blog, or check out the Rainforest Rescue website at



Final stats and superlatives

January 18th, 2010

Posted by Krista

Total distance cycled: 8,811 kilometres
Biggest day: 195 kilometres, 9 hours 40 mins in the saddle
Top speed: 73.2 km/h
Highest pass: Khunjerab Pass, Pakistan, 4733 metres
Longest downhill: 89kms from Khunjerab to Sust, Pakistan

Punctures: 11 (including five blowouts)
Bike repairs: 2 freehubs, 1 front hub, rim of back wheel, broken chain, 3 rear gear cables

Longest border crossing: China, they have a three-hour lunch break and we arrived just as it began…

Major cities: The Hague, Antwerp, Cologne, Salzburg, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Istanbul, Tbilisi, Baku, Bukhara, Tashkent, Osh, Kashkar, Islamabad

Most surprising language: Turkish – we’ve been able to communicate with various modifications of Turkish for 5,000 kilometres across Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and even into Xinjiang in China!

Most lovable local hat: The Kalpak, found all over Kyrgyzstan and proudly modelled here by Dan, who was given it by Abdulrahim (centre), the first friend we made in Kyrgyzstan.

Total time taken: 10 months cycling + 5 months waiting out winter in Istanbul + 9 months trip planning = 2 years!

One journey ends, another begins

December 12th, 2009

Posted by Krista

Dan and I sat together in a miserable huddle sheltering from the monsoon rain. We’d reached Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, that morning, without the elation we’d hoped or wished for.

Pakistan had tested us in so many ways and it was here that we had to decide whether to continue cycling. My intuition was strongly warning me to stop right now and go home. Life was beginning to feel precarious – and I had an ominous feeling in my gut that staying would be dangerous.

Dan, on the other hand, wanted to continue on cycling and exploring the Himalayas in India and Nepal. But that meant waiting for 3 weeks more in Pakistan for visas.

We were shocked at the realisation that this was the very first time on our journey that Dan and I had differing ideas, goals, wishes and desires. But what gripped me more was that, having spent 18 months together, side by side for 24 hours a day, committed to our RideHimalaya expedition, these differing ideas could mean that we would go on separate journeys for a while.

I looked towards the armed guard that crouched behind machine gun and sandbags – protecting the ‘foreigner’s only’ campsite. I swatted a few mosquitoes that were buzzing around me. Another monsoon cloud broke and I watched the crowds on the streets, in sandals and shalwars, run for cover. “I want to go home”, I said.

We hugged and cried at the thought of finishing our epic journey, sad, exhausted and deflated. Would Dan go on alone?

Dan broke the silence. Squeezing my hand tight, he asked me to marry him.

It was at that moment I realised that when one journey ends, another begins. I sobbed a big teary “Yes!” – knowing that our journey of life together will be the biggest and best adventure yet!

The Kaghan Valley and Babusar Pass

December 10th, 2009

Posted by Krista

Ramadan has started! For Pakistanis, this means no eating or drinking during daylight hours. So breakfast has moved to the ungodly hour of 4am, and a ferocious scramble for dinner takes place after the evening call to prayer at 7.30pm.

The Koran states that if you are travelling, you don’t have to take part in this austerity, but it is impossible for Dan and I to eat in public. Hoards of frothy-mouthed onlookers run up to us, deliriously asking us why we aren’t fasting, why we aren’t Muslim and why we don’t respect Islam. So we stock up on a daily ration of a kilogram of pakoras and ten samosas, and find a hiding place to eat them.

Here we are trying to buy fizzy drink and being refused.

As we began climbing up towards Babusar ‘Top’, we were tested by bunches of stone-throwing kids. As we strained and struggled and pushed up the steep inclines, they followed, taunting and hassling us and throwing stones at us. One man even rolled a boulder down the side of the mountain towards us!

But these boys were different, and it’s their faces I want to remember…

…they helped me push my bike up the steepest and roughest section of the deteriorating track.

The last few kilometres to the top were the toughest, with the air getting thinner and thinner and my breath getting weaker and weaker. I felt light-headed and nauseous and had to stop every few steps to rest.

This would’ve been an easier way to have reached the top!

The glory of reaching Babusar Top was not ours to be had. As we stood at the summit of 4173 metres, taking in the magnificent vista, we were approached by four tribesmen. Their eyes were lined black with kohl, they wore long gowns, turbans and long beards, and each had an AK47 slung on their back.

With signs of hostility, they told us that they lived here and asked us who we were and where we were going. Our idea to camp at the summit vanished. We waved a hasty goodbye to these ominous characters and began to descend.

The track worsened to some of the most terrible I have even ridden on, and for much of the time was flooded.

As we descended, we reached the epicentre of the 2005 earthquake that had killed 80,000 people, injured 50,000 and decimated villages completely. We stayed with international volunteer schoolteachers Ruth, Neve, Adrienne and Lauren at the newly-built school at the epicentre of the disaster.

A conversation with a local man gave us a bit of insight into the hostility that we were feeling towards us. He was sick and tired of the bad media that Pakistan had received and said of it, “If you think I am a terrorist, I will become one.”

Finally, when we reached Islamabad, we were exhausted. The monsoon was in full swing and mosquitoes were chewing on any piece of skin that they could find.

Reaching the Himalayas!

December 9th, 2009

Posted by Krista

Sorry for the delay in posting blogs  – I’m gonna post our last couple of months over the next couple of days. Hope you enjoy xxx

Nanga Parbat, literally meaning, “Naked Mountain”, is named thus because it’s 8,126 metre faces are so steep that, in some places, no snow can stick. Its other name is “Killer Mountain” as it is one of the most dangerous peaks to climb.

Nanga Parbat is the ninth highest mountain in the world. It is also the most westerly peak of the mighty Himalayan range. Since Kashgar, reaching this mountain is our new destination, now that Lhasa is off the cards (see Change of Heart blog).

But to reach it, we must continue for a few more days along the rocky, precarious track that is the Karakorum Highway. A few more days… against headwinds of dust… and rubble from ceaseless roadworks… in 50 degree heat…


We left Karimabad at the perfect hour of 5.30am. The air was crisp, and though it was still dark outside, the snowy peaks of Rakaposhi and Diran defined the separation of rock and sky. Few people were out and about at that time – and Dan and I smiled in delight.

And as we descended in an easy freewheel down to Aliabad, we watched the sunlight strike the mountains. The orange glow crept further and further into the deep valley cut by the fierce Hunza river until finally, it caught up with us. We stopped for a roadside chai, wiped our brows and caught our breath. The Himalayas seemed so near, yet so far, and I longed to reach them.

As the days went by, the heat grew in intensity and when we reached Chalt, the mercury topped a whopping 53 degrees. We decided to adopt a new regime of getting up at 4 each morning so we could finish riding by midday.

We’d already been using our friend Bryan’s trick of placing a sock over our drink bottle to keep our drinking water cool – a method that worked a treat! We’d also begun to wet our caps and stick our heads into the glacial melt in roadside irrigation channels or waterfalls, to stop our brains from boiling inside of our skulls.

Gilgit was the first major town since Kashgar, three weeks before. It was in Gilgit that we rested, had local clothes – the shalwar khameese – sewn up…

…and met up with our Pakistani friends Kashif, Arooba, Mira and Mahnoor that had befriended us at the border at Sust.

But Gilgit was full of confusion and mayhem. A petrol shortage had struck. Lines of cars, trucks and Suzuki taxis queued outside the rundown petrol stations, along with angry men holding empty containers of all shapes and sizes. Stiff military soldiers, wearing rockets, guns and batons patrolled the streets and the tension in the air was palpable.

Life in Pakistan had been fairly peaceful up until that point, but things were about to get nasty…

One day, as Dan and I were walking back to our guesthouse, we saw a huge plume of thick, black smoke rising into the air. It was blowing right into the largest Shi’a mosque in town. Curiosity overwhelmed me. As we got closer, we could see a crowd of men standing around a fire made from burning tyres. Many seemed excited, some looked intense and serious. Scared shopkeepers began pulling their shutters down and disappearing. More tyres were being thrown into the inferno.

Dan tugged at my arm. “Let’s get out of here”, he said. But the usual route to our guesthouse was blocked as armed police had begun to shut down the city. So hurriedly, we bypassed the marketplace and ran another way, through the fast-emptying back streets. Once inside the guesthouse, we heard the rat-a-tat-tat of gunfire.

The guesthouse owner warned us that, for our safety, we should stay hidden in our rooms. He told us that a Sunni mullah had been assassinated in Karachi, and the Sunni’s were retaliating against the Shi’a everywhere.

The gunfire went on all afternoon. We were lucky that there was no curfew placed on Gilgit, as we’d heard of travellers becoming stuck for weeks at a time. Kashif had told us that 3 years ago, the whole city had been closed down for 2 months and nobody had been allowed to enter or exit.

We cycled out of Gilgit quickly the next day and reached the turnoff to Skardu. Unable to find a decent place to stay that night, we camped on a slim patch of grass on the side of the road. People had begun to feel less friendly, less helpful and less happy than I had experienced them to be when I cycled here in 1998.

Above is an archive photo of me cycling through Pakistan back in 1998.

Early the next day, as the Indus River joined us from its source in Tibet, we caught our first glimpse of Nanga Parbat – we had finally arrived at the westernmost peak of the Himalayas! The beautiful mountain rose majestically into the sky, seeming to defy the laws of gravity.

After almost 9000 kilometres and 8 months of pedalling, we’d reached the Himalayas! The joy of the open road, of adventure, of freedom, filled my heart.

But this happiness was short-lived. Just as we cycled away, a car pulled up, a man jumped out and called us frantically over to Dan. “What are you people doing?” he cried. “You are in too much danger! There are Taliban on this road! They will kill you and your wife!”

We were cycling one valley over from the Swat Valley – the place where the Pakistani military, aided by Americans, had recently swooped, scattering the Taliban and killing their leader. There had been some suicide bomb attacks in nearby Besham recently, which the Taliban claimed they had perpetrated.

We had been worried about the danger of terrorists ever since we’d entered Pakistan, and so had always been sensitive about which parts of Pakistan we would choose to travel. We’d also done heaps of research on our route and been speaking with checkpoint police the whole way down from Sust who had assured us that we were in no danger.

Our route would take us another two days along the Karakoram Highway. At Chilas we were going to turn off, and cycle an alternative route via the Kaghan Valley, so missing the dangerous section. It meant, however, that we would have to instead cross the infamous Babarsar Pass at over 4000 metres.

The motorist made us promise to contact him as soon as we reached Islamabad.

Taking time to adventure

August 15th, 2009

Posted by Dan
Karimabad, Pakistan

Towering jagged mountain peaks jut upwards from rocky side valleys, occasionally snaring the clouds that can’t rise high enough to pass over the immense shoulders that form the Karakorum Range. The glistening cap of 7788 metre Rakaposhi has been blinding me all day as I look down the Hunza Valley breathing in the rich, brilliant green high above the River Hunza.

We are in Pakistan, we feel so lucky and happy, and are glad of the choices we’ve made. Pakistan seems at first as a place where anything is possible.

For the meanwhile, there is a very rough road, dusty and scruffy, famous and winding, like only a road could be that is chiselled into the face of a mountainside, at times as high as 500 metres above the river it follows. Its name is the Karakorum Highway and it will deliver us to the plains of Pakistan and its capital Islamabad.

But first, since we have changed direction, we’ll enjoy the opportunity to slow down, take detours, walk amongst mountains, meet families and trek to glaciers, camp in lush green valleys and take time to adventure.

The Himalayas are getting close. After three more days of cycling, we will see the most westerly peak of the great Himalayan Range – Nanga Parbat – and we will savour that sight.

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