It was a good few years ago that I named this blog Tom’s Bike Trip. At the time, it represented all I desired to do and write about, as well as remaining relevant to everything I’d written on this blog’s predecessor over the previous few years.
I still feel, of course, that there is incredible scope to explore the world by bicycle. But for a while now I’ve also been looking for a way to rediscover a particular feeling I had when I first started out – a feeling of rapid growth in my learning from the need for new skills to handle new experiences. I felt the same when I took on language learning as a serious endeavour, and again when I began to make films and write books.
And so I’ve come to the realisation that I’m not destined to be a one-trick pony; that being known only as ‘the bike guy’ is going to hinder my future experiments with adventure and with life in general.
In short, I’ve run into a bit of a branding problem!
It is entirely unclear how or when this might be resolved. It is certainly a privilege to have accumulated this breadth of knowledge on the topic of bicycle travel. But things are bound to evolve, and evolve they will.
In real terms, of course, it has already begun. It is over two years now since I undertook a really significant cycle tour (not counting #freeLEJOG or the limited amount of riding I did in Iran). In the meantime, I’ve been working hard on plans and projects that have little or no connection with cycling, and much more to do with adventure and learning and sharing in general.
Karun is all about combining a river descent with a language-learning project as a conduit to cultural exploration, for example. And the most recent project took shape very recently indeed.
It all started when Leon emailed me out of the blue and asked if I’d like to ride a horse across Patagonia. I found myself agreeing without a second thought (a textbook implementation of the ‘f**k yeah!’ decision-making algorithm, a.k.a. the ‘hell yeah!’ test, in which you decide whether or not to do things based on whether or not they elicit a immediate and uncontrollable reaction of “f**k yeah!”).
This was a mere few weeks ago. Things happened fast. And so I write this today from the dining room of a cheap hostel in El Calafate. We meet the horses on Sunday. (There’s nothing quite like a ridiculous deadline to galvanize action — plus, overplanning sucks anyway.)
The plan is pretty simple: Leon, José (a local horseman) and I will traverse the length of the Santa Cruz river, from the Atlantic coast to the river’s source at Lake Argentina, home of the iconic Perito Moreno Glacier. Leon was initially drawn by the prospect of following in the footsteps of legendary historical explorers who made forays along this valley, including Captain Fitzroy and Charles Darwin, as well as Moreno himself. Since that initial spark, the plot has thickened significantly — but it would be a shame to give it all away!
I’m joining this expedition as the filmmaker, carrying the cameras and exploring the story of man’s fascination with the Patagonian wilderness — though the fact that I’ve only ever ridden a horse once in my life will doubtless result in a cameo or two. There’s a potentially rich and intriguing story here, and though the challenges will no doubt be numerous, I’m looking forward to helping Leon and José to tell it.
We leave for the Atlantic on Monday. There being no phone signal, and with no satellite phone, this blog will remain quiet throughout the month of December, but all being well I’ll check in early in the New Year, as well as bringing you more news on the Karun film project — not to mention next year’s Festival of Cycle Touring (save the date!).
Have a great festive season, and wish us luck!