-Frances E. Willard, How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle
Hi, I’m Tara – so why the pen name? You have probably heard of Marco Polo – one of the most famous silk route explorers of the 13th century. I created this blog to document my solo, unsupported cycling adventure roughly following the silk routes stretching across the Asian continent. While I am certainly no Marco Polo, I can pay tribute to his endeavours through “Margo” Polo. And as it turned out, the Silk Routes were just the beginning for Margo.
In May 2015 I had a set plan. I would cycle for 1.5 years starting in Ulaanbatar, Mongolia and finish in Cape Town, South Africa. I crossed Mongolia, Xinjiang province in China, Pakistan’s Karakoram highway, the Indian Himalaya and the Pamirs in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Then, I hit a bit of a bump in the road and plans changed, along with my outlook for this ride. For various reasons, I decided to postpone my Africa trip and return to Asia and then move on to Australia. I now view my journey as a chosen way of life and not a quest to cycle around the world following a particular line. That current line is pretty random and non-sensical anyway.
So why have I chosen to lead this kind of life? and by bicycle?
Here is a bit of my own story.
Before I travelled anywhere on my own, I was a cyclist. My dad, a lifelong rider, got me into the sport as pre-teen. I never seriously competed, mainly seeing how far I could go and not how fast. In my late teens we joined a recreational endurance club called Randonneurs in my hometown Toronto, Ontario, where we would cycle anywhere from 60 to 300km in a day. I loved pedalling for hours on end through the Southern Ontario countryside. Riding gave me the feeling of unsurpassed freedom – a type of meditative state that is unique and unmatched even to this day.
Then, I discovered travel. At 24 years old, I backpacked for 4 months solo around South America. A few months previous to this trip I read Neil Peart’s “The Masked Rider: Cycling in West Africa” about a cycling tour he did through Cameroon. This set the wheels in motion. The thought of combining two of my favourite things in the world seemed too perfect. I liked the way that Peart described bicycle travel as moving at “people speed.” The bicycle allowed him to reach remote areas where buses seldom stopped, travelling at a pace slow enough to really experience the local life.
My first cycling tour took place on the Friendship Highway from Lhasa to Kathmandu in 2011. Following that, I embarked on my first solo tour 3 month tour from Kunming to Bangkok. A year later I rejoined with friends from the Friendship Highway to cycle Patagonia. To fund these trips, I have worked in the forestry industry in Canada for the last 10 years.
After 1.5 years of travelling I ran out of my money and now I am working as I go to fund my trip. So far I have worked in Australia as a treeplanter, a tough and wonderful job that I did in Canada for six seasons.
How long I plan to remain on the road is currently unknown. I will continue to do what I love most. For me, the perfect day is bumping along a dirt road through the mountains without a soul in sight.
Thank you for stopping by to read my stories – there will be many more to tell.
-Tara aka “Margo Polo”