Ambition Tightens Hamstrings 

Thus ends my first ever month of early mornings on a mat, bending and stretching at a yoga shala. To be honest, walking towards the shala that first day, I would of laid a bet on my attendance being 50%, tops. 

“I’m so happy that you’re joining me for yoga”, the GF smiled me that smile. 

“I’m proud of you”, she added with earnest, “and actually, it’s kind of romantic”. Wink, wink.

Yep, that’s me, Mr. Romantic, but I am also a realist. Surely there would be atleast one sneaky sleep in, a handful of hangovers and a couple of can’t be f**ked’s throughout the month. But, 30 days later, I can honestly say that I went the distance, and I’ll also let you know that it was neither a problem nor a big deal, but a real pleasure and a lot of sweat.

I started as a COMPLETE novice (I now consider myself a beginner), but I was able to pick up a thing or two about yoga along the way.

Firstly, yoga is not just for girls or the incredibly athletic posers of Instagram. Gawking around the shala on my first day, the diversity of students was obvious. People from all over the globe, of every shape and size, every age and colour, all together sweating and bending their way to bliss. Some stretching with the finesse of a Russian gymnast, some struggling to touch their toes (me). There is an oft quoted saying thrown around Mysore, “Yoga is for everyone, that is everyone EXCEPT lazy people.” 

Also, yoga is not a religion, nor a cult. Yep, there’s chanting in a dead language, Sanskrit of all things. Weird right??? Any weirder than ten thousand blokes standing around every Saturday at Stamford Bridge, all in unison yelling, 

“Blue is the colour, football is the game. We’re all together, and winning is the aim.” ???
Not really. 

Sure, yoga is full of philosophy and advice on how to live a better life, much like religion. But, hey, I’m always open to suggestions. As Alain De Bottom noted in his book, Religion for Atheists :

Some people can remain a committed atheist and nevertheless find religions sporadically useful, interesting and consoling.” 

And so it is with yoga. I’m open to ideas on becoming more mindful of how to eat, consume and act. I’m not too proud to acknowledge that I need some good advice every once in a while. Yoga offers a great opportunity to hang out with a lot of flexible, considerate and super healthy people.

As the GF always says,”Be part of it. practice yoga”.

Slow Race to the Fast Race


(Photo Instagram @nickisalwaysonholidays)

Lucky to be in approximately the right place at approximately the right time, the GF and I decided to ride the first leg of this years Le Tour de France, from finish to start, to see the BIG RACE for ourselves.

We slowly headed to Le Mont Saint Michel, a truly fantastic destination. Slowly because, we ride our bikes at around 15km an hour (approx. 10 miles). Slowly because, in the morning the first thing we do is stop for a coffee. This usually involves a patisserie as well, we are in France after all. Slowly because, we stop for photos. Slowly because, at midday we stop for a long lunch, usually a picnic or ‘plat de jour‘ or moules frites. Slowly because, in the afternoon we stop to refuel on liquid carbohydrates (beer). And, slowly because, even Lance Armstrong after a hit couldn’t ride fast on our tanks.

We finished the leg in three days (one day was a rest day in Granville). The winner finished in just over 4 hours. Humbling indeed.

(Photo Instagram @briana.n.yoga)

Beginners Bike Tour

  YOU’RE DOING WHAT???

This blog was to be named ‘An Idiots Guide to Bike Touring‘, but I am such a beginner that I’m not even sure if I am at the idiot stage yet. Pushing this trivia aside, the clock is quickly counting down to the start of our first ever bicycle tour. But I’m jumping ahead. Let me take you back to when the seed for this adventure was planted.

Turpan, July 2015. 

A little town beside the vast Gobi desert on the Silk Road in Xinjiang, China’s Wild West. It’s hot, 40 plus, 104 to those of you who’ve yet to switch. The GF and I have just spent the day at the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves, a truly fantastic reason to come this far away from civilisation. Sightseeing completed, we were sitting under the vine trellis at Dap Hostel, grapes hanging down within reach, drinking impressively cold Qingdao brewskis. There are six of us at the communal table, the total number of foreigners in town. Until…

BANG BANG BANG. 

The big old wooden gates of the hostel are flung open and in walk a couple pushing bikes. We are in the desert, seriously hot, and for what it counts Turpan is the second lowest place on earth. In other words, close to the fires of hell. Not a place for cycling.

‘We are French, en we need e room’. 

We collectively stare in awe as the pair push past. They haven’t got a bead of sweat on them. The girl is wearing makeup for crying out loud. They are uber cool.

Before too long they join the communal table and tell their story. Let me recap for you. Having caught flights from Paris to Inner Mongolia where they bought bikes and bike bags, they started peddling south. That’s it. Their speech is brief, giving us all ample time for questions.

‘So, you ride a lot in France’, the Irishman on my left asks.
‘Not since I was 12’, the French girl replies, taking a long drag on her second cigarette since she sat down.
‘And no problems on the road?’, the Kiwi chips in cheerfully.
‘But of course! There are many problems’, the Frenchman states. ‘My brakes don’t work’. 

Two Englishman put down their beers and take a step towards the bikes parked beside the table. 
‘Looks like you need to tighten the….’, giving a thin wire a tug, ‘Yep, that’s fixed it’.

Without a word of thanks the Frenchman says in an off hand manner, ‘Well, I would not know, I know nothing about bicycles’.

So it turns out that the trip for the frenchies to this point was done mostly by bus and train, bikes in luggage. However they were adamant that this was merely the start of a long journey, the plan being to continue on to the beaches of Thailand.

Later that night, lying under the fan in our room. 

‘The audacity of those frenchies to just think they can jump on bikes and cycle the world’, GF states staring at the ceiling. 

I agree with a long hmmm. 

Audacious‘.

And with that the seed was sewn and we are now in the UAE about to board a plane to Lisbon where a couple of bikes are sitting in some shop somewhere just waiting to meet us. Then the panniers will be packed. Panniers, now that’s a new word I’ve learnt, they are the bike bags. 

Maybe I have reached idiot stage after all.

Any tips for a beginners bike tour?? I am all ears.