After ten months and roughly 10,000 km of riding along the Silk Road, Kate and Mel of Cycling Silk have reached their destination! Cycling Silk shows the importance of protecting trans-frontier areas by ways of research through natural resources and social concerns. The work put together by these two young professionals will prove to be extremely helpful for protecting wilderness areas and enhancing international peace.
Their journey began in January off the European shore of Istanbul, Turkey. The two overcame unexpected illness, safety concerns and visa constraints in this entirely self-supported expedition and finally reached their destination: Leh–a small city off the Himalayan mountains in northern India. Kate and Mel rode through extreme and varying temperatures, landscapes, cities, and met various people ranging from scientists to government officials to local communities.
While exploring the lands of lost borders, they focused on five examples of case studies for wilderness conservation: the Caucasus mountains, the Ustyurt Plateau, the Pamir mountains, Holy Mount Kailash, and the Siachen glacier bordering India and Pakistan. Each of these five examples are based on existing or proposed transboundary cooperation. The two documented the entire adventure not only through the Cycling Silk blog, but also through photography, high-definition video, and never-ending journals filled with notes. Although the physical journey has ended, Kate and Mel certainly have some serious work cut out for them: translating everything they have lived, documented, and learned.
Kate ends by asking, “But what is wildness anyway? And why is wilderness worth riding a hard road for a whole year, and for the rest of our lives?”
And she responds: Ask a scientist what wilderness is and they might define it, possibly with equations, certainly using a graph, as a number of hectares absent of human influence. Ask a politician and they might say it is a national park efficiently converting tax dollars into paved, hand-railed hiking paths, punctuated by interpretive signs every ten steps, guiding you neatly through the bonafide wild. Ask an economist, and he might reply that wild places provide monetarily valuable ecosystem services, yielding resources like clean water and fresh air on which we all depend. But ask a poet, like Don McKay, and he will muse that wilderness is “not just a set of endangered spaces, but the capacity of all things to elude the mind’s appropriations.”