Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Krista’s birthday

Thursday, 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!

Friday, 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!

One journey ends, another begins

Saturday, 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

Thursday, 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!

Wednesday, 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.

Halfway round the world

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Posted by Krista
Kashgar, Xinjiang

Greetings from the road!

As we freewheeled down to the city of Kashgar, sun and dust in our eyes, haze in the air, second-largest sand shifting desert to our east, we felt elated to have made it this far. To me, reaching China symbolises having ridden halfway around the world – HOORAY for pedal power!

From Osh, Kyrgyzstan, we were joined by two cyclists, Ben and Sylvie, who’ve ridden all the way from France on recumbents.

The first 60kms of road was smooth as a runway. But then, as predicted, the roadworks began.

Smiling faces greeted us and we learnt our first few words of Chinese, yelling, “Nee-ha” (hello) to all the Chinese road builders as we bumped and clunked along. My forearms and hands ached from the vibrations and corrugations, my lungs stung from the dust of the trucks, but my heart sang with the mountains that surrounded us.

At the end of our second day, we were waved down by a young lad, Timur, who invited us to camp in his back garden. We stayed there for 3 days, swam in the mountain meltwater and visited the jailoos – the summer pastures – riding a donkey!

The families living in the yurts invited us in…

…and plied us with yoghurt, hard balls of cheese, green tea, fresh cream, nan bread and… fermented mare’s milk, a Kyrgyz specialty, known as kummuz.

Crossing the 3615m Taldyk Pass wasn’t half as difficult as I had imagined (I’d been creating a nightmare road based on what all the cyclists in Osh had described). As we climbed higher and higher, a cold flutter of snow greeted us.

Dan sped ahead, strong and sure, I was slower, having to stay in Granny Gear. This was not because of a steep incline, but because my gears were becoming more and more jammed. Ben and Sylvie had a near collision with a speeding truck, which hadn’t judged the angle of the hairpin bend.

The air was thin at the top, and I was breathless but happy.

And when I looked back at where we had come from, I was quite impressed.

The village of Sary Tash was horrible and we fought with the local kids who were throwing stones at us and trying to catch hold of our bikes. But to counterbalance this was the stunning view. And we followed this mountain range all the way to China…

The road deteriorated quite a lot more, but we didn’t care, we just loved being amongst all these beautiful mountains …

And 250kms later, we were in China, where the stinking floppy-humped camels, the wind-sculpted rocks and the mud-brick Uighur settlements kept us constantly surprised.

Towards Xinjiang

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Posted by Krista
Osh, Kyrgyzstan

China has seemed so elusive, so far away for so long, and yet now its snow-capped peaks are beckoning us, inviting us, challenging us. These grand mountains bring tears to my eyes – their presence and strength remind me of my own eternal nature.

From Osh, a road winds its way into the Alay Mountain range. We’re gonna follow it for some 250 kilometres, crossing three high passes, to reach Irkeshtam, the border with China.

I’m a bit nervous cos we’ve met a stack of other cyclists here who’ve reported that this particular road is the worst they’ve ever ridden. Its whole length is currently under construction, and by all accounts, apart from the first smooth and tarmacked 60kms, it’s rubble, mud, diggers, sand and gravel all the way to China.

I hope my bike will last until we reach Kashgar. It’s creaking and groaning from within the front hub and the gears have some unsolved problems that elude even Dan. And neither of us know how we’ll deal with the altitude yet – the Taldyk Pass is at 3615 metres – and is the highest we’ve been on bikes.

But, one pedal at a time, and I’m sure we’ll get there.

Rainforest Rescue update

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Posted by Krista

Our trip is to raise funds for Rainforest Rescue, an environmental organisation working to protect rainforests of the world. Here is an update on their progress…


Good news! Since January of this year Rainforest Rescue has planted 10,000 trees on previously cleared land inside the Daintree National Park in far-north Queensland.


Also, on 13 May 2009, Rainforest Rescue purchased Lot 29 Cape Tribulation Road in the Daintree! This is the 11th property in Rainforest Rescue’s Daintree Buy Back and Protect Forever Project – identifying and purchasing precious rainforest at risk of development and establishing Nature Refuge status, which protects it forever under covenants ratified by the Queensland Parliament in Australia.

Owning this 11th property not only means that the unique rainforest flora here, including the impressive fan palms are safe, but rare and endangered species like the Bennett’s tree kangaroo and cassowaries now have a vital corridor through the rural residential subdivision from the Daintree National Park on its northern side to two declared Nature Reserves in the south. This is particularly important in this area, as residential development fragments essential cassowary habitat through clearing and the introduction of weeds and dogs.

Unlike the properties to the south of the adjoining road, which are in wet lowland areas, Lot 29 runs up the side of the foothills of the Daintree National Park, offering a significantly different ecosystem especially worthy of conservation.

The vegetation type here is described as notophyll to mesophyll vine forest with significant numbers of fan palms on the slopes with the main emergent being the swamp mahogany — host to the rare redeye butterfly and bottlebrush orchids. The biodiversity values of this ecosystem type are described as being ‘very species rich’.

As a dedicated Nature Refuge, no development is possible at all now on this property; no dogs, no traffic, no clearing, nothing. Just nature doing what it does best (under the watchful eye of biologist and Conservation Manager David Cook). You can visit this and other properties we have secured on a self guided tour, Rainforest Rescue can give you directions any time.

Your continued support is vital in keeping up the momentum on this project. Please help secure even more of the Daintree by making a donation to Rainforest Rescue.

Click here to donate, thank you! xxx

Onward from Osh

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

Posted by Krista
Osh, Kyrgyzstan

Osh is situated at a major travellers crossroads – if you go south-east you reach China via the Irkesham Pass, south will take you to the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan, go north and you will reach Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek and just a few kms away to the north-west is the border with Uzbekistan. All very nice cycling territory! And it’s here that we’ve met NINE other cyclists! Yee ha!

Together with our new two-wheeled friends, we’ve been discussing routes and plans and ideas for the way ahead. It’s becoming more and more apparent to us that the original route we wanted to take – along the high altitude Tibetan Highway to Lhasa – is virtually impossible this year.

Travellers and cyclists reaching Osh from China have reported that the Chinese authorities have clamped down EVEN more strongly on independent travel through this region since the Olympics. And for the past couple of months, travellers have been forbidden to enter Lhasa without an official guide.

So we’re reconsidering our route and here are the possibilities.

The heros of Tashkent: Said and Steve

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

Posted by Dan
Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Donkey and horse carts greeted us when we were dropped off on the outskirts of Tashkent at 11 o’clock at night. Gutted, exhausted and disorientated we struggled to drag eleven heavy pannier bags, a delicate broken bicycle and my bike onto the curb.

We asked one of the horse and cart drivers if he’d take us the last 10km into the city to a guesthouse, but the silhouetted man refused, claiming it was too far. Any car, any vehicle can act as a taxi in this part of the world – all you have to do is flag one down and name your price and destination. An hour and a half later, after continuous failed attempts, I managed to convince a driver of a small van to take us in.

Reaching the guesthouse, we were pleased to find two bikes exactly the same as ours sat in the courtyard. Under the cover of night our spare parts problem could dissolve should we dare to tinker with these carbon copy velos while their lovely Belgium owners slept upstairs!

The following morning we met Sandrine and Gerard, whose bikes we had admired on arrival. Over breakfast they told us about their journey – great cycling stories from their recent time in South East Asia. They also filled us in on where we might find spare tubes and a new tyre as they’d had a few bike problems of their own and so had already worked out where the best Tashkent bike shops were.

Then, in the shade of the open courtyard, I leant over Krista’s damaged wheel and took a file to the rim, sweating with apprehension for a whole morning as I gently, tentatively, sanded and filed away the jagged edges until I’d made a smooth surface for the bead of the tyre to seat against.

And in the afternoon, following Sandrine and Gerard’s directions, we took the Metro to the street full of bike shops. Apparently, this was the best and most likely place to find the right size spares in Tashkent – though we were pretty sure that they would be of dubious quality.

The man running the shop want ed a highly inflated price for the worst quality inner tube ever, and refused to negotiate! Although there were rows and rows of other bike shops on that street, no other shop had the Presta valves we needed. Frustrated, disappointed and unwilling to pay so much for a bad quality inner tube, we walked away, not quite knowing where to turn next.

Trudging back along Rustaveli Street, I spotted Gerard whizzing by on the other side of the road. I waved frantically, hoping he would stop and help us negotiate a fair price for the tube, as he told us he’d made friends with the shop owner that morning.

As the cyclist came to a skidding halt, Krista looked at me and said, “Who the hell’s that?” When I looked closer, I noticed the bike had a basket on the back – and the rider suddenly didn’t look like Gerard anymore… But the guy had stopped and was waving back at us as if he was our best friend!

Apprehensively, we crossed over toward him – and we were greeted by an over-excited lad, speaking quickly at us in Russian – still as if we’d known him all our lives. His one English sentence was “I love you bicycle”. Krista thought he was crazy, and rolling her eyes, she said to me, “You’ve picked a right one here”.

The guy, who introduced himself as Said, was ridiculously hyper, and seemingly passionate about bicycles – motioning and gesturing the acts of riding and repairing bikes – so I thought, “what have we got to lose?” and tried to explain our story (complete with loud explosion imitation and deflated “PSST!”, injecting the Russian words we just learnt for tyre and inner tube).

So, with wheel in hand, we followed Said for the next 4 hours, slowing coming to realise – with awe and deep respect – that he knew far more about bikes than we did. With a quick glance he knew the materials that made up the different parts of the wheel and where they’d been manufactured, and as he walked through the bazaar, we also came to see that he knew every person in Tashkent who had anything to do with bicycles.

Said was so pleased to have met us that on the way to Chorsu Bazaar, he went in search of a street photographer who could take a picture of us all standing in front of the Circus.

When Said’s friends from the different stalls at Chorsu Bazaar couldn’t provide the spare parts we needed, he urged me to meet him at 5am the next morning to cycle 20km to a different bazaar. It all seemed so random, but I agreed anyway as we had no other options left.

Reluctantly I got up at 4:30 the next morning to meet Said, unsure of where I was going or why I was going there.

Yangi Bazaar was just how I imagined a market during the Soviet times to have looked – full of dusty old shoes, oily car spares and electrical parts salvaged from every Russian machine ever invented – loving collected up as if they were valuable antiques and then spread out on tables through the crumbling graffitied concrete walls of what looked like an old aircraft hanger.

Following Said through the labyrinth of dark corridors, I began to get the picture – not only did he know all of the 100 odd guys setting up their stalls selling tyres, mud guards, wheels, spokes, gears, bells saddles you name it they had it, all of which was from China of course, but he too ran a stall selling second-hand imported bikes – Russian, German, French and Italian steel frames from the 70’s and 80’s.

At 6:30am the penny dropped. I was holding 4 spare Presta value inner tubes and the best quality tyre available (in Uzbekistan!)

I had accidentally flagged down the most perfect person to help us find bike parts, the best case of mistaken identity ever made!

NB: Having said all this 3 of the 4 spare inner tubes broke the following day as I was fitting them! One exploded while only half inflated and the valves of the two others fell clean off! Thanks to Steve, a WarmShowers host living in Tashkent, who donated 3 of his precious and rare tubes to us.