The Faces of Bicycle Travel #3

Nov 9, 2012

People. The true treasures of bicycle travel.

India, 1994

I call this photo Candy Break. I’m at a small roadside store (a shack dangerously perched on the side of the narrow winding road) high up in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh. It is early morning and I’m in search of chocolate. Most of the desserts in India are insanely sweet even for a sweet tooth like mine, and I’m losing too much weight. I discover a chocolate bar that most merchants carry, and I eat at least five a day.

Four young girls emerge from the store. I bring my camera up and one girl gazes at me while the others look at two local men who are teasing them about eating candy on the way to school.

Just up and around the bend from where this photo was taken, I meet a group of men camped out by a broken-down truck. One of their party had left to buy a part for the truck in Delhi. When I ask how long they had been waiting, I am shocked at their answer -- 11 days 

South Africa, 1995

I pedaled for five months in South Africa soon after Nelson Mandela had been elected president. I began in Cape Town and soon headed toward the former homeland of Ciskei. The closer I got, the more often I was warned that as a white man, I was risking my life to travel there. I’ve learned if enough people tell you to be afraid, fear begins to creep into your very soul. I went from being excited to being nervous to not being able to sleep at night.

This photo was taken on my first day of travel in the Ciskei. All of these kids came pouring out of a tiny school. They jumped up and down and cheered for the traveling cyclist. My fears melted away in their smiles.

Macedonia, 1996

My stomach aches just looking at these two women. I’d swear they fed Kat and me a weeks worth of Macedonian cuisine in one sitting. The day was hot and muggy with bits of the summer harvest blowing about and sticking to our sweaty legs. They had baskets loaded with glorious red peppers from which they made a divine relish called ivar — roasted red peppers cooked up with olive oil and garlic.

One of their husbands pointed at the red peppers and announced with disgust and loathing, “No calories!” He had obviously eaten too many peppers in his day. We couldn’t get enough of them. There is such a wonderful sparkle of a life well lived in their eyes.

Photos by Willie Weir

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SIGHTS AND SOUNDS is posted every other Friday. Willie Weir is a columnist for Adventure Cyclist magazine. His latest book Travels with Willie: Adventure Cyclist will inspire you to hit the road and just might change the way you approach bicycle travel. He lives in Seattle with his wife Kat. You can read about their adventures at http://yellowtentadventures.com/.

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