In the run up to UB, almost every waking minute of 10 days solid was cycling or a related activity to power us across 150km or more each day. When this is the case there is recovery, repair, and rejuvenation to be done on every level, from the outermost of kit, to diet and inner energy levels, but also to the subtlest level sheer exposure of your consciousness. Neither of us had realised the stress and strain that had been internalised and needs to be released. We felt much more energetic on the first day's rest, the second we felt more fatigued, and on the third we were exhausted. Fatigue had to work it's way out before recovery could work it's way in. In cycling there is a clear cut time for your body to know when to do this on-bike to off-bike. But in many people's lives this dividing line isn't so clear, and then stress and trauma can continuously build, never vented, over years of living.
It's not just us to be repaired but the bikes deserve this too, we arrive as the very last customers of Trek Bicycles in Mongolia. They are closing down that evening, my tires are given their long overdue retirement, like a geriatric they've lost all of their teeth, the tread has been work away to slick gums. Both sets of break pads are switched on both bikes, the Himalayas have done there worst there. Unfortunately my front wheel bearings have ground their bearing cup and need urgent changing, the first possible 'urgent' is 1500km away in Beijing. A thorough degrease and we are there, oh for the recovery time of a bike.
Another aspect that crops up is how during time-off, the constant movement and accompanying sense of ever-purposefulness is removed. Even after a day, this can become difficult to accept, the sense of distance gained each day isn't there, and an hour or an afternoon not spent well feels truly lost. Cycling emphasizes this affect in crystalline simplicity, you are able to be 'productive' simply by putting one pedal to another, no questions asked. This is why I think some find cycle touring addictive, this clear feeling and measurement of progress, not dirtied by multiple life goals or dependence on other's progress for your own. This element of independence is a control freak's nirvana, it gives a clear view on life while the tour, but to transfer this clarity back is perhaps to take the fish out of water.
The center of UB has very little to mark it as Mongolian, chain restaurants from Korea or Japan dominate the streets, the same Asian conglomerates hold court in their shiny office towers, and parliament square and it's gloss hotels are global not Mongolian. On this trip the most varied and culturally colourful experiences have almost always come from our time in the countryside, I wouldn't know Almaty from Baku or UB from Bishkek instantaneously. And yet when people visit these countries they often focus on the global urban centers and try to gt an 'authentic feel' from there. After this trip that seems nonsensical, especially in a rapidly modernising Central Asia, where the majority of these cities were built in the last two decades. Our experience has been narrower in the streets than on the steppe. This also gives insight to the shade of global grey that may come to beset more and more of life. In connecting up the world, we are often less effective at sharing local phenomenons or unique cultural fusion, than grey-washing it all with a rampaging consumerism. Note - perceived 'West is Best', originating anywhere from imperialism to corporatism to consumerism.
Interviews and filming, Alex Heikens = sobering interview - pregnant women and miscarriages, Mushi says first breath for baby in winter is equiv to pack of cigarettes, he has 6 air purifiers on at his home running around the clock, and wouldn't have contemplated this posting with young children. whilst Aza - founder of one other children's center in Mongolia with damning demographics an how this problem will worsen. Connor, remarkable and mild giant figure, landmark decision so young after volunteering for a week on world challenge, gap year to work and move there permanently, the reard and richness of life is incomparably greater than home in Oxford in uk. Back home perhaps he feels just another someone in UK, but here things can be done and lives improved.
Ger district in summer not all that bad, nothing to compare with the Indian example, but air quality and winter is when conditions matter, and for the most part India does not have the same dirty fuel and heating problem. Anecdotally, one neighbouring ger lit up on coal in the evening, and you could taste it throughout the center.