And so we bid farewell to Asia.
It is nine months since we first crossed the Bosphorus under stormy skies to enter Anatolia. Nine months since we left Europe behind. Nine months since we last went to a Lidl.
After nine months of inching our way across Asia, it is time to say goodbye to this most diverse of continents.
Adios to the sand dunes and camels of the Arabian Middle East.
Cheerio to the chaotic towns and the peaceful deserts of Rajasthan, echoing with the calls of peacocks.
Hasta la vista, baby to the long drop loos of India and South East Asia, where a simple jug of water must do the same job.
Farewell to breakfasts of noodle soup; farewell to endless meals of rice and kebab, rice and pork, rice and rice and rice.
Farewell to the stench of durian, the pungent fruit which is treated as a delicacy throughout South East Asia, but which makes us retch.
Farewell to never knowing what we’ve ordered, and usually ending up with offal.
Farewell to delicious Asian food, and hello to the ‘pie floater‘.
This is the end of being treated as a novelty everywhere we go; the end of countless stares, jeers and cheers. This we will not miss.
We have crept our way across the continent and watched from the seat of our saddles as cultures morphed into each other. Like dominoes, the culture of one country knocks against the next. Alexander the Great took Greek influence to Persia, seen in the ruins at Persepolis. The Persians exported their culture to India, found in the vast Mughal edifices such as the Taj Mahal. In their turn, the Indians took their religions to South East Asia, as witnessed in the Hindu temples around Kuala Lumpur. Cultural creep means food, languages and religions blur geographical boundaries, weaving places together into a complex web. The forces of history and the flows of humanity shrink our world, appreciated best at a cyclist’s pace.
Kuala Lumpur is a fitting place to finish. Not far behind London in terms of multiculturalism, it is as though the continent was picked up and shaken, with the select morsels settling near the bottom of this pointy peninsula. We have eaten our way around Asia in this one city, reliving past places and flavours before we leave the continent behind.
To get here, we crossed a final mountain pass, dodging snakes and monkeys before we descended into the chaos of the city. It felt momentous – the end of the road and the end of our time in Asia. A final, sweaty day of cycling to the airport and then we fly away to a new country and a new continent.
Today we fly to Adelaide.
Today we say goodbye to the seething, heaving carnival of humanity which makes up Asia.