In August of 2005, April and I found ourselves camping on an idyllic islet off the north coast of Flores, Indonesia, during a 7-month kayaking expedition from East Timor to Singapore. An experience that first night on the island left us badly shaken, and our skepticism of black magic and blind acceptance of Western scientific thought both in doubt. This is the first of a three-part excerpt from my upcoming book, To the Brink (published April 1, 2015).
It’s a variation of the big “Why” question adventurers are always asked in media interviews. Why ride a bicycle to Timbuktu? Why be the two thousandth person to summit Mount Everest? Why row a bathtub to the North Pole?
In this extract from my forthcoming book, To the Brink, I am privy to a whole new perspective on the meaning of suffering while biking India
“Malamūtra, excrement, is so intrinsic to life in rural India that for some it constitutes their sole reason to be. I saw a thirteen-year-old boy who should have been at school squatting under a cow’s backside instead, his job being to wait until the thing shat. When finally it did, he caught the deluge in a rudimentary baseball mitt fashioned from an old grocery bag. Like an expert pastry chef he then mixed in some straw and spanked the steaming matter into four dung-patties before laying them out in the sun to dry for fuel.
In keeping with my last post about the aftermath of long-haul journeys, here’s a snippet from my upcoming book, To the Brink, about expeditions and whether they’re just an elaborate excuse to avoid responsibilities back home.
The uniformed ticket inspector handed me back my stub. “This is not a valid ticket,” he announced.
“But I bought it only fifteen minutes ago.”
I was on the 17.10 from Paddington to Reading, sharing a packed commuter carriage with several hundred weary London commuters returning home. Three days previously, I’d arrived back at Greenwich after 13 years of circumnavigating the planet by human power. This was the fastest I’d gone in a long time.
The inspector looked at me like I was an imbecile. “It is a receipt, not a ticket.”
“What is it like transitioning from a multi-year expedition back to regular life?”
This has been a frequent question since completion of my thirteen-year circumnavigation, and I usually talk about the psychological implications of coming home: of reintegrating back into society, of refocusing from the primary motivation of making miles west, and reacquainting myself with family and old friends.
If you haven’t already got your hands on a copy, the second part of The Expedition adventure book series is now available in print and ebook formats in the UK and rest of the world.
Those left hanging at the end of Dark Waters will find out what happens when you’re run down on an isolated stretch of American highway by the Worshipful Master of the local Masonic Lodge. Does he stop and call for an ambulance? Does he keep driving, later claiming that he thought he’d hit a deer (even though your rucksack has gone through the windshield and is sitting in his wife’s lap), leaving a working-class Hispanic guy to step up to the plate? As The Seed Buried Deep reveals, truth can be stranger than fiction.