a condensed history of my 2011. aka a few of my favourite images from last year

 

I returned to the silent room, lowered myself quietly into the armchair by the bed and poured a glass of wine. I checked my watch, it was two in the morning. I looked at the figure laying in the bed, I waited for his chest to rise, it did not. I had become accustomed to the surge of adrenaline coursing through me, the hollow feeling in my chest and the pit of my stomach each time I thought he had passed away, and the relaxing calm that followed when his chest moved once again. This time though his chest did not rise. I waited, nothing. I put the glass to my nose and breathed in the gamy earthy aroma of Châteauneauf-de-Pape, my father’s favourite. It is a wine he introduced me to more a quarter of a century before and it seemed fitting that I should drink one final glass with him now that he was gone. As I drank I talked to him about the year ahead. It struck me as odd that after a week of sitting mostly in silence together I should sit talking with him now that he was dead; but, heigh-ho, maybe his spirit was still with me. I told him that I was off to the Andes. I toasted him with the wine, I thanked him for all he had done for me, I wished him farewell and went to find a nurse.

And so 2010 ended. We buried my father on the 11th of January and two weeks later I returned to Asia. I flew to Thailand and then on the Vietnam. I never did get back to South America and now 2011 is over.

Two thousand and twelve began for me on the banks of the Mekong looking across that huge river as it winds its way from the Himalayas to its estuary in Vietnam. The moon was quite a sight that night, glowing fiercely as the old year’s end was marked fittingly with this red hemisphere laying on its back as it dipped down bellow the horizon in Thailand.

I now have a few days in Vientiane waiting for a Thai visa. Vientiane is no bad place to have to wait for a visa, I know a little place that serves a splendid pizza and a little place that serves a splendid steak, I will satiate myself well whilst I wait. And whilst I wait I think. I have pondered the past year and what it meant to me, what I did. It was in someways an odd year, it didn’t go quite as I had expected but it was not a bad year. I wondered what I had done and went back through some pictures; and whilst looking I thought ‘wow, you actually did a fair bit Walks’.

As I said, I left the UK mid January and began the year leading a group of cyclists from Hanoi to Vientiane. Then back to Bangkok and on to southern India where I led a group of cyclists through Kerala. On the way from India back to Bangkok I stopped off for a little ride around Sri Lanka, a pleasant journey across a pleasant Island. In April I researched a Thailand tour that I will be running for Redspokes next month. Then off to Nepal and Tibet for a months work cycling through The Himalayas, a tour I was to repeat again in September. I repeated another tour, the Vietnam Lao tour, in November and finished the year again leading a cycling tour through Lao with a small and highly jovial group of individuals.

July was great; early in July I utilised my air miles with Thai Air and flew to Vietnam where my colleague and great friend Phong and I set of to explore a cycling route through a remote area of NE Vietnam. That was a wonderful journey through some of the most spectacular scenery I have had the privilege to ride through; what a great few weeks that was. Following that I spend a fine six weeks in the UK, mostly with my family. My brother Dicki and I had a few fine little adventures bicycle touring through Cornwall, mountain biking on Exmoor and from time to time sampling a small glass or two of traditional English ale.

If you have read this far dear reader then I will take the opportunity to wish you not just a wonderful new year, but a wonderful future ad infinitum.

I will leave you with some pics from 2011. Most of these images have been featured on this blog before and I have chosen them for no other reason that I like them.

for me 2011 began with a funeral

and then back to asia for my first tour of 2011 and more importantly a glass or two of the wonderful bia hoi with my young chum Mr Phong

the expression on this nomadic Tibetan girl's face captivates me. I wonder what she made of this odd looking fellow crossing one of the worlds highest road passes on a bicycle. I dare say that I will never know

 

into Lao where this early morning rural village scene was taken

this small estuary acts as a harbour for squid fishing boats. it is along the route of my upcoming Thai Winter Escape Tour

rural Vietnam

these two lads tending their water buffalo personify rural Vietnam

this old lady has such a lovely friendly face. for me the happy communists on the tattered poster nailed to the mud wall behind her completes this portrait

tea drinking; a street scene from the pilgrim town of Palani, southern India

another street scene from southern India, this time Madurai. the old fellow looks so sad, the boy so unsure, so puzzled, is it the same though troubling them both?

midsummer and Phong and I took to the back roads of the mountainous region of Vietnam that borders China. These deserted unsealed roads made for fantastic cycling and rejuvenated my slightly flagging passion for adventure cycling

august saw me back in the UK where my brother Dicki and I took off as our custom dictates on a series of mini-adventures. we had five great days cycling through Cornwall where despite the constant pessimism from those tasked with predicting the weather we were blessed with fine clear days

Chomolongma, The Earth Mother Goddess, more widely known as Mount Everest peaks out from behind the clouds at base camp on the Chinese side. in the foreground prayer flags flutter gently in the breeze

Cat Ba island Halong Bay Vietnam

the final barrier before the Tibetan Plateau begins its near 5000 vertical metre decent into Nepal. toted as the worlds longest down hill it is from here that we begin the decent that finaly finishes some 120KMS later

 

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2 thoughts on “a condensed history of my 2011. aka a few of my favourite images from last year

  1. Ah-ha, Mr Harding; I think that when I am back on the island we could even push the boat out and consume a pair of sherries. I think I am an email or two behind, will be writing soon. Toodle-pip old fellow.

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