Getting Nowhere: Couple bikes aimlessly around the world (continued)

Posted: Oct 29, 2013 11:12 pm EDT

(Markian Hawryluk) Polish couple Ania Poltorak and Mateusz Emeschajmer have been Getting Nowhere and having great fun doing it. In part two of our interview with the cyclists, they talk about their best and weirdest experiences en route.


What has been the highlight of the trip so far?


For sure the last four months spent in Spiti, Lahaul, Ladakh, Nubra and Zanskar on the North West of India. Maybe because it is still vibrant in our minds or just due to the fact that we have never cycled on such high altitudes before. Some of those regions are still pretty undiscovered by an international crowd and might be completely different in a couple of years so being there at that moment was important for us.


Crossing several passes of a very high altitude (with the highest being Khardung La, 5359 m.), some of them covered with ice and snow remaining from the last winter, or pushing our bikes for 8 days on a trekking trail in Zanskar made us aware of what we are capable of and that we truly love being challenged in the great outdoors.


A totally new experience for us, was to attend a diving training in Thailand. We discovered a completely new world under the surface of the ocean and we are happy to get amazed in Indonesia and the waters of the Pacific as we go further.


While being hosted by a Portuguese family in Macao we became a part of a team to organize an event of Gary Kasparov's chess show match. We have been traveling for such a long time that there are places that we already visited and we would like to be back there one day. Especially Iran with its helpful and gentle people, Tajikistan for its mountainous landscape and fascinating inhabitants and of course the majestic China a huge country of contrasts too big to be discovered at one bite. We will definitely revisit those countries.

What was the weirdest moment?


Definitely sleeping with a dead body of a stranger in one room. Seriously! In Thailand it was too hot to sleep in the tent so we used to ask for a place to stay in the temples. Some of them are used as a local ground for the ceremonies, including burials. In one of the temples we slept together with a Thai family and their dead grandmother. In South East Asian Buddhist countries, a funeral is not considered a sad event, it is an opportunity for the living ones to come together.


The family of the dead person gathers in a temple and stays there for at least a week, sleeping and eating next to the body in a big praying hall. We did not know about that tradition and accepted their invitation to stay overnight. They offered us a place to sleep in the middle of the hall - the body of their relative was five meters away. It was a bit weird at the beginning of the night, but after more than a hundred kilometers on the road cycled that day we slept like babies!


How much of your route is planned out in advance and how much do you just go where the road takes you?


When we are in a good mood, we make a sketch of the future six months, simply by asking each other what we would like to do, where to go what to explore. Then we see if our dreams or needs would be possible to realize and we just live with the idea for a while. In most of the cases we follow those dreams.


On the road we usually know where we want to go, but we never plan it exactly. Sometimes we check the elevation profile of the road in front of us or ask the local people for recommendations and advices. We decide where we want to sleep just before the sunset.


Best things so far happened unexpectedly - we stayed much longer than we intended to be in Iran and it was great, we went to the very North of Kazakhstan, visited Hong Kong and Macau, crossed from Laos to Vietnam and then from Cambodia to Thailand. To escape from the incoming monsoon season in all of South East Asia we flew from Bangkok to the capital of India, to cycle for three months the high passes of Ladakh on the North West of the country.


We never regretted changes of our route. Nobody knows what kind of adventures are waiting for us before we get to Australia.


Do you know where you will go after India?


Yes, we do! We are going to spend October in Nepal and later re-enter India and go to Sikkim and Assam, maybe Manipur (North Eastern India).


We want to be back in Bangkok by the end of this year, to continue South to Malaysia and Indonesia. We are also considering going back to Laos (from Thailand) to paddle down one of the rivers there on our pack rafts (we left them in Bangkok). We will stay in Indonesia for a couple of months and probably reach Australia around May 2014.


Is there an end in sight?


Nothing fixed yet. We would like to get to New Zealand and make a decision what to do next over there. It will be almost three years at that time, so we might be too tired to continue, or still craving for more, who knows?


Our opinion about the time of coming back changes all the time. There are days when we want to conquer the world, and days when we miss home.


Our planet is a special place, there is so much to see out there but human life is short and the time when one is able to truly experience traveling and fully enjoy it, is pretty limited.


When we left Europe we wanted to experience totally different cultures of Asia but after almost one and a half years away from Europe, we slowly start to appreciate and miss it. Luckily Australia will fullfill our need of Western culture, so we are looking forward to be there.


In Central Asia we met quite a lot of cyclists traveling just like us. All except one couple we had met, already returned home (complaining that almost nothing had changed, their relatives and friends have the same lives with the same problems - only the children grew up).


Our friends from home are starting to doubt if we will ever come back and if yes, whether or not we would be the same people.


Previous story: Part 1


Hiking in Tajikistan. "Best things so far happened unexpectedly."
courtesy, SOURCE
Setting their bikes aside for a moment, Ania and Mat trying diving while in Thailand.
courtesy, SOURCE
Mat and Ania tackle a rough road in Zanskar, in the Indian Himalaya. "We never regretted changes of our route."
courtesy, SOURCE
Camping in a barren Ladakh plain. "There are days when we want to conquer the world, and days when we miss home."
courtesy, SOURCE
Mapping out the route.
courtesy, SOURCE
Ania trying on a bamboo hat. "In Central Asia we met quite a lot of cyclists traveling just like us. Most already returned home. Our friends are starting to wonder if we will ever come back."
courtesy, SOURCE