The build-up to this trip had been long. Six months had passed since Chris and I cemented our plans in Chicago. The preparations had been cumbersome. We spent countless hours designing the website, chasing sponsors, researching equipment, and training, which for me meant bike tours in the freezing French winters.
It had been an amazing amount of work, but as we finally cycled down the Champs Elysee, wearing our yellow jerseys as if we were leading the Tour de France, we were filled with nothing but energy and optimism. Our dream was finally turning into a reality: two years of adventure, and many great unknowns, lay ahead of us.The elation of simply starting was as great as any joy we’ve had on this trip.
We ended the day by knocking on the door of some castle we found in a village 80 km out of Paris. The owner agreed to let us camp on his lawn, next to the moat and drawbridge. It’s still one of the best campsites we’ve ever had.
Finishing our first Story
We’d been in Romania for a month, researching a piece about the education of the Roma (gypsy) population. It was our first real shot at investigative reporting. To say that we were green is an understatement. We made up for lack of experience with enthusiasm, and probably conducted over thirty different interviews for the piece. It was a lot of pounding the pavement, and more than once we took a six hour bus ride on little else than the hope that someone would talk to us.
At the time, we thought we were going to publish all our stories on the Postulate One website, so we designed and built out a whole new issue section for the website as well. Our concept then was going “in depth,” so we wrote one long feature story and six smaller stories about the people involved beneath it… so much material! It took a four day retreat to the mountainsof Transylvania to get all the writing done.Then… we did it! It didn’t matter who, or how many, read it. We had our first story published, and as we got back on our bikes and headed to Turkey, we knew we had learned what investigative journalism really meant.
Camping in the Pontic Mountains
Chris and I had been stressed for three days. We were trying to get to this town named Gerze to do a story on how the townspeople were battling against a major multinational that wanted to build a coal plant there. Greenpeace had given us the scoop, and we wanted to get there fast so that we would have more time covering the story.
But in our plans, we didn’t anticipate the three hundred miles of mountains between us and our destination. The hills were unrelenting, oftentimes reaching 10 percent grades. We were advancing less than 70 kilometers a day, and we were sore, and way behind schedule. But at the end of the fourth day, after pounding up hill after hill, we found a wonderful and isolated campsite. It was high up, so that below us the black sea stretched on forever and the craggy granite mountains towered up behind us.
As we sat and watched the rice cook, the sunset turned the sky orange, and the sea mirrored the sky. I could feel all the stress sort of fall away, and I remembered that we came on this journey to enjoy moments like this. I’d never felt so lucky to be alive as when I watched that sunset.
Going nature-style on the Konkan Coast
This was our first real bike tour in India, riding from Mumbai to Goa. It was beautiful country, nothing but deep blue lagoons and coconut groves and fishing boats in the brightest colors and kids playing cricket around tiny villages. It was the essence of adventure, the exotic india that I had always dreamed of. It was also the monsoons, which would cool the hot sun in fifteen minute tropical torrents, and left the surroundings a brilliant rain-soaked green.
We were still wet from one of these showers when the road took us along a long and deserted beach. We were both thinking it, but Chris said it first. “Let’s go for a swim.” So we pulled our bikes up to the beach and stripped and ran as fast as we could into the water. That was a moment of total freedom.
Our Welcome to Bramahnapally
A friend of Chris’ had family in Andhra Pradesh, and suggested that we stay with his uncle in a village close to Hyderabad, called Bramahnapally. The village was Catholic, he was the priest. As we arrived inthe village, he invited us to go for lunch at a nearby catholic preparatory school.
When we got there, we were given a tour of the school, and met the principle. The principle actually called all 300 students out of class to come hear us talk. They cheered for us and hugged us and gave us bouquets of flowers. As we left the school, the students lined up in the driveway as if for a parade, and the cheered even more loudly and whooped, and a few brave girls held out flowers for Chris and I to grab as we passed.
I think that this was the moment that we realized that we were doing something special, something that could impact people other than ourselves. We’ve carried that with us ever since.
Our stay in the village turned out to be fantastic. We wrote a feature story about what we found there, and the dreams of the kids we hung out with.