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Photo Friday essay: Himalayan cycling

Ex-Essex boy turned Australian Adventure Cyclist, Dave “Mushypea” Turner, has just returned home after six years research and 15 months cycling across the largest mountain range on earth as part of a project to help uncover the secrets of Shambhala, a mythical valley buried deep in the Himalayas.

From hiking across freezing glaciers to crawling through caves and exploring hidden lakes shrouded in mist, Dave has been trying to find ancient hidden scripts used to help guide the seeker to one of the most puzzling myths never told. What he didn’t bank on was finding something that would change the next few years of his life…

Here’s what he has to say:

From little-adventures, big adventures grow

I started racing BMX when I was 7 years old back in Norfolk, England, but it wasn’t until I turned 19 that I had the brain wave of combining my love of cycling with my other passion, traveling.

As soon as I chucked a leg over the cross bar of my first mountain bike, my mind filled with potential for where these bikes could take me. I love racing for fun, but for me, mountain biking is so much more than just racing – MTB’s a vehicle for exploration and discovery!

In 1995, without a clue and little to no preparation, my best mate and I grabbed a couple of 60 litre backpacks and headed for Morocco, to cycle over the Atlas Mountains, our first foray in to the world of adventure off road cycling.

Since those early days, the trips have got bigger and bigger, pushing the limits of where I could take a bike and in 2006 I accomplished a life long dream, to ride unsupported across Tibet before the opening of one of the world’s most controversial transport links, the 4000km Beijing to Lhasa railway.

I had no idea how much that ride would open up my mind to the potential of mountain biking, adventure and ultimately, help shape the next few years of my life.

Let’s get spiritual

During my first trip to Tibet, I heard of a magical kingdom buried deep in the Himalayas.

Ever since I heard those stories I haven’t been able to stop thinking about whether Shambhala may actually exist.

Shambhala is widely considered the original blue print for what later became James Hilton’s monastery, Shangri-La, from his 1930s novel, Lost Horizon.

I needed to get in to some pretty remote areas, and for me, the best mode of transport is my mountain bike. I can ride it, carry it, push it and at one stage I even threw it!

I wanted to find out if the people of the Himalayas still believe Shambhala exists, or whether they think it’s just a fairy story with no relevance to our modern world.

Time to pack the bike up once again and head to China!

From the monsoon floods of China, I found myself on a wild off-road ride across the entire ridge of the Himalayas, climbing through caves, getting caught in landslides at 5000m, trying to decode 1000 year old scripts and meeting people who would add their own twists to my original route.

Finally, after 15 months, my GPS blinks for the last time.

After six years of research, 15 months of riding and living on biscuits, I reach an unmapped region of the Trans Himalayas, about to start a descent into a long forgotten valley in the abode of gods, a valley which could unwrap the mysteries surrounding one of the greatest stories never told.

For more information, please visit my website.

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  1. Greetings from South African Bikers;thanks for a great blog

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