The Journey My Life Had Been Waiting for (Wrapping up)

Incredible India. Now a month old memory. For two years it sat on my horizon like a slither of flashing front line fire. Visible from London, Spain and Morocco  From the wandering thumb of a homeless mans holiday. Within it, waiting, cradled in chaos, the journey my life had been waiting for.

After four years at an Engineering students desk, tangled in my conscious right brain, the organic world was crawling to get under my finger nails. A back pack and a flight to Frankfurt, started me into the big wide world. Dumped like a homeless man caught in a tornado  But the world is small when you have a thumb. For 15 months I toured through France, Spain, Morocco, England and Italy. I used barely a penny, but worked for local families for my food and my bed, and hitch hiked from from town to town for thousands of kilometers. From country to country. I believe I saw the world from a rarely seen place. From rag trucks, tractors and air conditioned cars, to ancient monasteries  mud and grass shacks and humble family homes. I was a sucker for a journey both hard and rewarding, but in India, my final country, waited a journey with purpose.

When I told people of my plan to hand cycle 2000 km through India to raise funds for its poor and disabled, I was more or less told that I would die. No motor, no legs, just three wheels, two hands, chaotic roads, Delhi belly and stubborn ambition. But I believe now that most people live in fear and hold little credit for what their bodies are capable of.

For fifty three days,  2200 km, I flapped my arms like a handicapped chicken. Through dirty cities, palm leaf hut villages, tiger jungles and mountainous tea plantations. I was a blood cell in the veins of India. Dodging lawless rickshaws, sacred cows, cavernous pot holes and screaming buses. A bath tub of curry has run down my throat and a wheel barrow of rice has passed through my stomach, though still I will never be able to eat as much as a small orphan girl. The sun has baked blisters over my arms and the monsoon rain has washed over me like a tidal wave. I have slept in thatch huts, churches, mental homes, bus shelters, workshops, poor family homes and the dirtiest of hotels. I have been feebly sick and buzzing on sugary tea. I met with people deceiving and people astoundingly generous. From a hand powered wheel chair is truly a unique way to see a country. You are right in it. Sweating, bleeding, and subjected to both the elements and the limitations of a snails pace. People are always happy to help because they think you are disabled. Many are shocked when you jump up out of your chair. While riding you may sit up straight and enjoy the scenery, and India is full of it. It is a country of intensity. Intense food, intense art, intense religion and intense weather. It is hard to get bored. It is like riding through a festival. Music is constantly blasting from both the Hindu, Muslim and Christian places of worship. Strange sites are always on tap, from people pushing the limits of how many coconuts you may fit on a scooter to the regular passers by with curious unseen deformities. Trucks are decorated with colorful flowers and giant leaves. People are constantly chasing you down the road to ask questions and practice their English.
"You are coming from?", "Your good name?", "What is this?", "Where is the motor?"
After 5 weeks of these questions I lost all shame in providing them with bogus answers.
"I am coming from Uranus", "My name is Tom Cruise." They still responded with "Ah very good."
I was also stopped by people with disabled friends who wanted me to sponsor them a tricycle.
"Where are they", I would ask, "please take me to them." "Ah just 5 minutes this way."
"Ah that is one hours travel, this is not a bicycle"
Never the less I managed to to visit many people and test them on the cycle. Twenty five in total though not all were suitable. Some did not have sufficient arm strength, some had only one arm, some were too small, some were too rich, some were too fat, and some were deaf or mentally handicapped and had no use for a cycle at all. Of all of the people I met, eleven have now been professionally assessed and delivered with a tricycle or wheel chair. A further eleven have been delivered through another N.G.O to recipients in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Four more cycles are waiting for recipients. The figures and recipients photos are shown bellow. It was very touching to meet these people and often worth the great detour. I am confident that most of them will find their lives improved with their new machines. To cycle through a country with a big sign saying "Wheel chairs and hand cycles for donation , is an alternative method. Perhaps not the most cost effective, due to the large dispersion of recipients, but I believe many people were found who otherwise never would have been. Some had been trying for years to apply for the government funded mobility aids, but these are sub standard and seemed difficult to acquire. All were asked to make a small contribution for the device before I confirmed whether it would be delivered. This was really to make them think about whether they actually wanted it and would use it rather than just being out for a freebie. Most however never followed through with this contribution, but the question served its purpose. None of my recipients spoke English, yet through local friends translations I feel we were able to share some connection. Some showed gratitude and others confusion, but most I think a glimmer of hope in a small confined life.

Thank You so much to all of those that have followed my blogs throughout this journey, donated towards the cause, and shown me hospitality. Also a great thank you to my father Ken Bolton who was so intent to spend time with me that he flew all the way to the sweaty pit of India to ride along side me for the last 400 km. Thanks to you all this was not merely a lonely, unrecognized slog of pain and endurance, but a journey of purpose with a successful outcome. The journey my life had been waiting for.

What Next? Well after 19 months, I'm tired of travel for a while and I am looking to find my self some sort of engineering career. I have been tempted with a couple of independant design and build projects in Tasmania for the time being and some way or other shall surely slot into a sustainable, secure yet stimulating lifestyle. Here's a good oportunity to plug my new portfolio web site showcasing some of the other projects I enjoy and hope to continue.

Good bye for now (until my next adventure)

Shasa Bolton

Cycles/Wheelchairs funded:     26
Funds Raised:                          $3566.00 US