“Aren’t you afraid? Can you sleep at night? Don’t you miss Lukas? Is he well? Have you heard from him lately?” Those were the compassionate questions and the worries expressed by friends and relatives here in Europe. Some of them made us feel quite irresponsible and pretty heartless. Are we this inconsiderate? Can't we see that such an adventure is very dangerous? Some other feedback was very supportive and made us even a little bit proud. The challenge involved seems similar to star gazing: You need to see what is behind the obvious to understand how little you know yet. Thus, looking at the preliminary signs of this overland journey project will help to understand our positive attitude towards it.
When, in 2011, Lukas was back home from his stay with CCODER in Nepal - where he had investigated the value of foreign development aid from different view angles - he already mentioned that he would once want to return to Nepal using the land route. At that time, we just took note of his intention. However, while he had to concentrate on finishing school and get his university degree as a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering, the said topic flared up now and again. One of his ideas was to use an adventure or travel enduro motorbike to cover the immense distance. We still considered his ideas and plans as daydreams and reveries. How wrong we were!
When Lukas interrupted his studies after the Bachelor exams to serve his community duty, he had half a year time to reflect and detail his plans - all this while pushing beds in a geriatric clinic. And the decision was: He wanted to go to Nepal by bicycle. Neither my wife nor I had ever done such a wild thing. We had no idea, whether and how this could be achieved. We soon learned: It can be done. Others have done similar trips before. But did it relax our minds? Not really.
On the other hand, we knew Lukas and his determination. Who were we to tell him, he should not at least try it. When he subsequently declared, that with this trip he wanted to raise money for CCODER, we knew he would go for it. Should we then have stopped sleeping? We didn’t. Instead we helped him to find supporters for CCODER.
On the fifth of March, we had a frugal lunch in Zürich with him and his girl-friend. We enjoyed a very good moment of harmony and mutual understanding. Early the next morning he departed for his adventure. Almost ironically, it rained for some days to come.
We had guided and educated both our sons to become responsible, independent and self-sufficient persons. And they both accepted the challenge. So, what else did we expect?
Before Lukas took off, he had asked us to reserve the weekend of his 25th birthday. Thus, my wife Sibylle, our younger son Andreas and I were able to meet Lukas in Istanbul – by the way just one week before the ill-fated public vote to increase Erdogan’s power even further. Despite the political tension we enjoyed our quality time “en famille”.
When the three of us flew back to Switzerland and Lukas headed further east it really meant to let go for several months. With today’s means of communication, we could at least get some news from time to time. The stories of tedious border crossings, of very friendly hosts depriving him of sleep, of arbitrary police interference hindering his progress and even of arrests started to drop in. He told us of interesting local intellectuals and non-conformists. He mentioned that he was considered a reporter when taking photographs at a political event or that he was arrested, presumably for spying a nuclear plant in Iran. And he met great new buddies who accompanied him on some of the stages to come. We loved each and every story and followed the blog posts closely. Should we have worried more? We valued the new friends higher than the struggles.
The difficulty to organize visas, for example, would be worth a blog post of its own. To cut a long story short: We soon learned that Lukas had failed to receive a visa for Turkmenistan. His solution was to find a cheap flight with a blacklisted airline from Tehran across Dictator’s Disneyland, followed by a nightlong train ride from Almaty in eastern Kazakhstan to Shymkent further southwest. And after a few more stages on the bicycle he arrived in Samarkand - back on track, so to speak.
From thereon followed the hilly and tougher part of his expedition including trouble with biting dogs, a rabies vaccination, steep and high mountain passes, snow, unpaved roads and a damaged bicycle. New cultures, more different food, stomach troubles and indigestion, strange habits, unusual religious rites and peculiar shrines, and acts of god such as sudden inundations followed.
And yes! We were occasionally concerned and longed from time to time for a sign of life.
But we trusted Lukas’ empathy, his people judgement skills, his healthy condition, his perseverance and his willpower to reach the self-set goal in Nepal. And all along we knew: Lukas enjoyed life and, in our hearts, we lived it with him and shared his thrill.
Now we are very happy that he has reached his destination in good health and can convince himself that his decision to go to Nepal in 2011 had been worthwhile and that the fruits of his seed have started to grow.
Finally, we all wish CCODER, as well as its head Govinda Prasad Dhital, his family and the Nepali people, all the very best for the future. May all your projects be a success in stabilizing Nepal’s economy and autonomy!