Sunday, 24 January 2010


(Click on the pic to view the album)

So there is a village that inspired my trip, where the children come to the Vidyadaya school. Westerners aren't allowed in the tribal area.

1 month ago a tourist ventured close by and was killed by an elephant so security is high and it's no no no to any questions about the village. Shame.

So when i'm told we're going I'm totally dumb founded, apprehensive and excited!!! The village leaders and elders and spiritualists got together and decided in one day of talking I could visit, the next they said i could have a 'sleep over'!!

And they want me to cycle in......

So it's on to Shirley (the wife) I get again and head off into the jungle. Villages get simpler, then simpler still and then we are in the jungle and my guides on motor bikes have to leave their machines and follow by foot.

After a few minutes the undergrowth parts and opens to a small clearing where there are 2 buildings. A nursery and a temple. Both made of mud with straw roofs. In the distance I can hear children and make out houses dotted into the hillside. women carry water from the stream up to the houses - some of which are miles away. If you have seen Avatar then it has many similarities.

Visiting the families I was welcomed with tea (as usual) and smiles. Some kept their distance form the 'strange one' others were transfixed. I saw some children with scabies but the hospital funded by Accord - the partner of Action Aid in India - has given the medicines needed to cure it.

Night was drawing in so we made our way up the hillside climbing roots and avoiding vines and palms. At the top the chiefs house is the same as all the others. Simple, clean and friendly.

We light a fire immediately to keep the wild animals away and after chatting for hours by fire light (there is no electricity) I am brought a gourmet meal cooked over a fire in the kitchen.

Lying down on the mud veranda the head teacher and I settle in for the night and its surprisingly cool after the heat of the day. The cool of the wild lulls me to sleep as birds and beast make their nest or begin to hunt by night.

I am woken in the pitch dark by the chieftain who says - listen - I can hear a calling. He says 'Tiger'. Oh my goodness their is a tiger close by. He says it is some way off though.... thank goodness. The only protection I have is my sleeping bag and I've even forgotten my mosquito repellent - not much use against the king of the jungle. I lye and listen a bit longer but the tranquility has me at its mercy and I'm asleep before I know it.

A few hours later and I jump out of my sleeping bag - the dog is going crazy - I switch on my torch and see a Leopard disappear into the jungle.

A leopard has become attached to the chiefs cow - I like to think 2 creatures from seperate worlds have fallen in love but the reality is probably a little more gruesome. The leopard unlike the India human population wants beef on the menu.

This wildest of creatures was one pounce from having Mr Bent ala carte.

Again I slip off to sleep lying on the hard floor with wild ideas in my head.

When I wake in the morning I am surrounded by children and a godzillion balloon animals and flowers later they are all happy and I'm allowed to go for a tour.

We walk down the steap hillside stopping in at many of the 150 houses the constitute the village. Lots of tea and smiles again.

Then by another simple temple we meet another chief who has his bow and arrow on him. We practice shooting my shoes (they are off my feet at this point). After a while a youth takes the bow and wants to show what he can do - he fires one shot and a bird falls from the canopy way above us. The young children scamper off to retrieve but the tiny bird and the arrow.

I felt a bit guilty - did a bird have to die just coz I'm here, "What will you do with it?" I ask.

"Eat it" they respond as if I'm an idiot. A fire is rustled up and the bird after being plucked i\and gutted is just thrown on. it's barely larger than a wren but we all take a piece. I had both breasts (about the size of a penny) as guest.

The second bird to fall I plucked and then when it was cooked I didn't want the most succulent breast - so they said take the head. I was told to remove the beak and gouge out the eyes. After doing so, very proficiently I have to say, I was left with this skull. What do i do with it?? Eat it. What the whole thing.

Man, they're thinking, this white guy has no idea - of course all of it!!

I pop it in like a boiled sweet and bite down. The brain oozes into my mouth and tastes like cream cheese. Yummy.

Before I know it it's time to leave - they invited me to stay for a week in the future - I'm keen!! very keen.

On the way back to the school we had to avoid the elephants again. This time I'm on foot coz the head teacher has taken my bike (after lowering the seat a lot) and is flying around like a kid at a fairground!! His eyes are wide and his smile is bigger than ever. He comes back to me and says, 'This is soooooo coooolll!!!'

So I'm back and teaching at the school - I have to force the children out the door of each lesson. It's wonderful, they're wonderful, you're wonderful, life's wonderful.

Again 'luckiest man alive' doesn't come close to me. And add to that Mum and Dad are coming out soon..... so lucky!!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

The last push...

The End

My last day of my old life. The chrysalis is starting to tear and I’m vulnerable to the elements and predators as I spread my wings for the first time.

This day is surely my most dangerous – Taliban, wild dogs, stone throwing kids, crazy truck drivers, pan fueled nut jobs – they pale into insignificance as I enter the wildlife park on my bike. Containing the highest number of Asiatic elephants rampaging through the jungle destroying everything in their paths and containing the largest number of Tigers of any other park.

As I’m coming down a hill I halt suddenly as elephants are spotted. What to do – wait and be easy prey for the tigers or risk being crushed to death beneath tonnes of elephant. I decide to go for it – a motorcyclist says “go past on the right and go fast!!”

I’m here and hence safe but man I think that 1hr was risking it a bit too much!!

As I continue I am joined by cyclist and motorcyclists, our number is increasing as is the number of flower wreaths round my neck – it’s starting to get heavy. With 1km to go I see in the distance a huge crowd gathered. Adults children men and women all dressed so colourfully and bearing banners. As I get closer I see they are wishing someone a happy birthday and congratulations. A little closer and I can make out my logo ‘Velo Love’ in the hands of every child. They’re here for me and the tears begin to flow.

Cheers, claps, drums rolls, singing, dancing – it’s a carnival as I walk my bike towards the school with a 6 yr old on the seat and hundreds of people from the village and the school following behind.

Singing and speeches follow, tears follow that. Not just from me but from the teachers, the pupils, the media crowd that have gathered. I think something very special happened today in this little Adivasi village. Wow – I cut a cake, again bearing the ‘love’ logo and now I’ve lost it. My head in my hands as they sing happy birthday in English with their beautiful accents and then sing again in Tamil.

For the second time in India my life has changed forever.

Last evening.....

The final push

So I have one evening of my trip left, what better way to enjoy it than learning to roll Beadies (the leaf cigarette – no smoking though), making incense sticks, testing every oil until I smell like a flower shop and then ripping up Mysore behind the wheel of an Auto Rickshaw – with the driver taking a backseat shouting to his friends as we cruise past like the rude boys on Southend Seafront.

My life is up in the air and I have no idea how it’s going to land. I bump into a Spanish spiritual lady who I connected with within 10 seconds of small talk. Embarrassed about our embrace with so few words spoken we went our separate ways only to bump into each other later and start chatting deeply. She reassured me that I was on the right lines and without knowing my issues at all said she felt clarity was coming my way in the next week. In love I had to be patient. Sweet.

A few hours before I was due to leave, lying listening to music, each word connecting with my every thought, she asked if I was spiritual. It was one of those questions she already knew the answer to.

“Nah,” I replied, “I’m not into that kinda stuff”.

“The kinda stuff we’ve been talking about passionately for the past 8 hours” she replied smiling.


I’m Danger Dan – nerdy, clumsy, loud, ungraceful, stupid. My farts stink. Spiritual? Come on, get real – I like bikes. No?

Monday, 18 January 2010

Few more pics from the slum - Mumbai

Slum II

1 day to go........

It's one day till my 31st birthday. Some young wipper snapper said to me today that it's all down hill from here. Thank goodness for that. Down hill is easy and fun if a little extreme!! I'm looking forward to it.

Also hoping for some downhill on my last day before arriving at the school and chembakolli but I'm promised more mountains!! 1 day of this epic journey. 1 day. Then what..... A new year, a new school, new experiences, new love, new challenges, a new life.......

These last few days have been some of the toughest. The heat is outrageous and although the map says everything is below 1000m (goody I thought) what it doesn't tell you it goes from 0m to 999m on regular intervals - it's tougher than the Himalayas.

I partied a bit too long in Goa which meant I was left with massive distances which means cycling in the midday heat. At points I wobbled on my bike as my brain cooked, I'd arrive at a restaurent and fall asleep with my head on the dirty tables for 30 mins before being woken by a customer wanting to eat and off I'd go again. Headaches, heat stroke, sun burn.... all part of a days work.

And man I'm gonna miss it!! Way too emotional right now...... 1 day to go..... 1 friggin day.....

International man of mystery

Here's the article from the Indian Express about my trip.... (not sure if you can see pics??)

Not sure if I posted this one too (From the Times)....

Monday, 11 January 2010

New pics loaded onto "Long and Winding road" and to the "Christmas in Mumbai".

Pics from Mumbai

I really feel a connection with this city.


Also see Slum pics on older mail

Party time excellent

After breaking two floorboards of the dance floor on Christmas day we were on a roll. It was time to forget about the fact I was missing family and friends, to forget the pain of the cycle saddle, the suffering in all the countries I have visited – the homeless, the dying, the deformed, the handicapped, the diseased, the repressed, the child labour, the starving, the torturers and the tortured.

I left the bike in Mumbai and with a gang we head to Goa – the Ex Portuguese colony. People flock in thousands at this time of year to enjoy the cheap drinks, the parties, the sand, the blues seas and the coconuts. I had decided I wasn’t going to miss one piece of it.

Clubbing to horrendous techno on New Years Day – jumping around like the monkeys I’d seen in the trees on the way down, making friends, sillyness, makeshift break dancing on the sand, the domestic tourists were getting some well earned entertainment in the shape and form of a Spanish fire fairy, and Papa Noel (my new nickname). I ended the night lying in a fishing boat with a motorcycle helmet on catching some much needed sleep as the sun rose above me.

But this was just the warm up – the big party started when Michael Jackson (reincarnated) came out to visit me on the 4th. Carnage.

The day started with Indian Olympics – what? You don’t know what that is? Track and field with an Indian twist. First event was the 3 legged race, then throw the chapatti (a flat bread), Onion Barge and spoon race (a variety of egg and spoon race), then the elephant riding race. My team won – no thanks to me – I was useless.

After this we had booked a club for our gang to have a bad taste party. You can imagine everyone dressed in a variety of Indian coloured clothing – the scary thing was that I have clothes like that in my Rucksack to wear on a daily basis.

With a bit of help from my mum I’d managed to get some decent ingredients and with the fire fairy being an artist I was in luck. Just as the food was being served at the party a Tiger roared on the beach - people were climbing palm trees to escape, grabbing their children and running to their beach shacks, pushing boats out to the water to put a barrier between themselves and this fierce looking tiger, dogs howled, cows ran from their comfy sand seats. The tiger then entered the party – Angela had painted me from head to foot as a tiger and I have to say – I looked awesome!!

Mucho dancing, free beers, congas, singing and photo’s with everyone in Goa ensued, then I managed to bump into a super sexy Swedish girl who wanted me to use my hands to paint her body in the same fashion. It was a tough job but someone had to do it!! :o) So the tiger had a tigress and that meant more photo’s and more free drinks.

The next morning I woke in my Hammock (Angela and I had been living in the trees for some time by this point) surrounded by a group of people – through blurred eyes I couldn’t work out what was wrong. They were all starring at me – I looked down and saw the paint and realised I should have washed it off last night. I strolled or should I say prowled down to the waters edge to the surprise of sunbathers and joggers to take a bath. Oh dear. It wasn’t permanent but lasted a few days!! :o)
It hasn’t all been partying though – we had some tough times too. Swimming with dolphins, surfing, kayaking to rocks to jump off (mucho urchins pins in my hands), jogging on the beach, cycling to perfect juggle towns, jamming on the beach, climbing palm trees, back waters, gorgeous fish buffets…. Should I stop there? Did someone say ‘snow’??? Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

Love you all, Papa noel xxxx

(My camera is broken!!! Arrggghhhhh.... but at the menders. Lots of pics from friends to come - watch facebook and I'll post them on here too)