An otherworldly light
We became nomads as the days passed by. Two people on a pedal-powered adventure around the world soon turned into three with the birth of a daughter on the journey that had become our life. We began in Swiss Alps and arrived in New Zealand five years and fifty thousand kilometres later with our two year old bundle of joy, Nayla.
Every day is a new beginning. Sunrise greets us with a universe of possibilities. We are at one with nature and everything unfolds to a different rhythm. With a tent to sleep in, simplicity rules our lives. The foot of a giant tree with its protective branches over our tent becomes home; the river quenches our thirst. The Earth unveils its mysteries to us.
The soul soon becomes accustomed to this nomadic lifestyle, as does the body. Yet it’s an art feeling at home cycling along the roads of the world. An art enhanced on occasion by the earth’s breathtakingly glorious landscapes and the warm vivid colours of human hospitality. Sometimes the colours lose their shine. Sometimes they become intense as nature humbles us with her fierce winds, slashing rain and heavy snowfall. Sometimes the nights feel intimate as the whole family snuggles up in the only living space in the vastness of nature.
Travelling the roads of our planet
In 2010 we quit our jobs, left our apartment and sold all our possessions. We jumped on our bikes and left Switzerland with a sense of fear gnawing at our guts. Our aim was to bike to New Zealand. Xavier is an architect and a photographer; I am an anthropologist and a hiking guide.
We ventured deep into the heart of the Middle East. Entering Syria before the Civil War, we were touched by the open-armed hospitality that greeted us. Pitching our tent was impossible, we were ushered into homes to be fed, watered, feted and embraced by whole families. It’s tricky knowing how to respond to this overwhelmingly generous hospitality. How do you accept it with the same level of humility with which it is being offered?
Local hospitality has always been amazing. We slept in Buddhist temples, schools and police stations. If we needed help, someone always lent a hand. We have been amazed by the generosity of locals in every single country we have cycled through. We can genuinely testify to the greatness and beauty of human nature.
Trust in life
It is minus thirty degrees Celsius; how on earth are we going to bike across the wild and unspoiled steppes of Mongolia?
Our attempt to get a six-month visa to spend winter there is botched. It slowly dawns on us that we should bike across Mongolia during the winter months (or at least give it a shot).
Crossing Mongolia brought us our greatest challenge, to trust in every moment of life and to keep going no matter what. To go with the flow and not struggle against it, accepting the sandy tracks, dry virgin landscape, paths splitting off in different directions, snow storms, creeping cold and howling winds with intense, hundred kilometre an hour gusts. But it was this approach that paved our way, opening the doors to these vast wild spaces. Only the purest thoughts filled our heads as we pedalled along in the awe-inspiring silence that sublimates the magic of this Earth.
Nayla was born from the Earth
To celebrate this new life we were leading we thought it was perfect timing for us as a couple to add a nipper to the mix. We were more than ready. I biked until the seventh month of pregnancy, giving birth to our daughter Nayla in Malaysia.
Back on the road again as three people and not two meant dipping our toes once more into the unknown and discovering many delights along the way. With Nayla aged five months old, courage was not the only thing we needed. With a baby we had to travel to a different beat; finding a way to balance naps, breast-feeding and an infant’s need to wriggle and explore with the demands of the road, changes in the weather and the necessity of finding somewhere to sleep. Gradually we established a new pattern for our day. Step by step, life soon had us pitching our tent roadside, totally self-sufficient.
15,000 kilometres on a bike with a baby
For us the most important thing was to be in tune with Nayla’s rhythms. We were pedalling an average of sixty kilometres per day with breaks sandwiched in between. Most of the time Nayla was asleep, sometimes she lolled about in the hammock in the bike trailer gazing at a book. Every so often we would stop off for a couple of hours so she could stretch her limbs and discover the world.
Surrounded by wilderness Nayla learns to love swimming in pristine rivers. Every day, she opens her eyes to see contrasting landscapes. She breathes in the heady scent of the forest or the complex aromas of a city inhabited by several million people. One minute she is observing insects; the next she finds herself surrounded by a crowd with all eyes on her. She dances to the music of the world. Together, we have swum in tropical waters in Thailand, gazed in awe at the fabulous temples of Angkor in Cambodia, explored the tea road in China, climbed the sacred mountain in Taiwan and crossed the Nullarbor desert in Australia.
Two years after the birth of our daughter, we eventually reached New Zealand. Nayla is brimming with joy and life. At ten months, she was walking. By the age of two she was potty-trained, swimming and speaking French and English. The adventure we dreamt about, imagined and turned into reality was far more than a simple journey, it became our life. With intuition as our guide, our path mysteriously grew into a symbol of infinity with two loops around the sacred mountains of Altai and the mystical high summits of the Himalayas. A path that united harsh and solitary landscapes with the hustle and bustle of crowds.
We made the decision to live in hope. To trust in life to guide us along our path, to count on our bodies to keep us healthy and to have confidence in the people we met. We have been pedalling nomads since 2010. We have remained in good health, only using alternative medicines when needs must. We have never locked our bikes.
We live the spirit of freedom that fills our greatest dreams, feeling as free as eagles swooping in the wind. We nourish ourselves from the light that bathes the magnificent landscapes of the world. The intensity of life is powerful, inescapable. We feel deeply alive. We live a life based on simplicity, trusting in the magic of life. Yet, it is so profoundly rooted in human beings that there is a limit to what life can offer us, that the magic of the world is not boundless. Accepting abundance is giving ourselves the right to create it and to welcome what life has to offer us into our souls without blocking any of it out. Can we embrace our lives and decide we deserve its magic not because of what we do, but because of who we are?
The adventure continues, this time in the great Northern Territories.
Celine, Xavier and Nayla Pasche
Text: Celine Pasche
Photography: Xavier Pasche
Celine Pasche (born in 1982) is an anthropologist and a hiking guide. Xavier Pasche (born in 1980) is a photographer and architect. Since 2010, this Swiss couple has been cycling around the world. In 2013, daughter Nayla was born in Malaysia. Today, they are a nomadic family.
Kilometres travelled – 50,000 kms
Kilometres with Nayla – 15,000 kms
Countries – 32
Visas – 22 each
Longest day – 142km – 7 hours
20 km – 8 hours
Average km/hr – 15km/hr
Highest point – 4655m in Tajikistan
Warmest day +53° in Australia
Coldest day -30° in Mongolia
Roadside teas offered – hundreds
Tooting horns – thousands