Thursday, December 04, 2014

Charlie's Journey

I travel a lot.  A bit of an understatement.  I haven't had a true fixed residence in almost 2 years.  I have been to over 70 countries.  I literally live on the road. Beyond being internationally homeless, I run cultural diplomacy programs around the world.


I was in Samarkand, Uzbekistan one cold night, and wandered down to the dining room for its warmth from the fireplace.  There were two gentlemen sitting in there already.  I sat down and we got to chatting.

The first was a British-Canadian fellow, who was coming from Pakistan and heading to Afghanistan.  He also had Turkmenistan, Burma and North Korea on his upcoming travel itinerary.  Not for the backpacking faint of heart, by any stretch.

The second fellow was a bushy-bearded fellow named Charlie.  He had biked here.  From the UK up past the Arctic Circle and East across Central Asia to China.  He was now on his way back.  By way of Capetown.

Yes, he was continental cycling.

I was just touring the 'Stans with a five-girl bluegrass band, and suddenly my epic journey did not seem so far.


I was stunned.

This man had biked his way across Europe, across Central Asia all the way to China, and was now heading back by the southerly route.  He had been on his bike for about two years at that point, and figured he had another two years to go.

In Laos, Charlie had been through a harrowing crash in that almost took him off a mountain; in China, arrested as a spy; through a world of punctured tires and adventures.

We sat drinking beer out azul blue pottery tea cups as the fire crackled.

I was beyond impressed with his journey.  It takes a man of real grit and determination to bike the Silk Road.  And then through the Middle East and Cairo to Capetown.  And back up.

We ate the house meal of rich lamb soup with dollops of yogurt in the broth.  The hunks of hot lamb warmed we weary travelers.  The soup-cooked vegetables were soft enough to cut with a spoon.  The crusty round Uzbek bread with little black sprinkle spice on top made for proper dipping fodder.

Charlie told stories of riding horseback across the Central Asian steppes.  Of unenviable situations with gruff drunken Kazakhs bent on having you circumcised.  Of a world of adventures without compare.

The next morning I had tea with Charlie in the courtyard.  He was about to head out on his seemingly-endless journey.  We sipped black tea out of the china blue cups, and ate candied melon rinds.  I drizzled the honey syrup in my black tea.  We bade farewell, and I wished him well on his way.  Vaya con Dios, were my last words to him if I remember correctly.


I followed Charlie's journey across the Middle East and down through Africa, through every joy and malady possible.




After a journey of more than 43,000 miles through over 60 countries (and Hundreds of Unwashed Faces), Charlie recently made it home.  He faced war, herds of charging elephants and the endless road until he biked his way back.  There and back again, if ever there was a journey.




Congratulations to Charlie Walker for the completion of his incredible journey.  It is a road few else in this world will ever see.

I salute your courage and determination for choosing the road less traveled.  Welcome home, Charlie.


For more on Charlie Walker's incredible bike journey around the world, visit: http://www.charliewalkerexplore.co.uk/

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