Archive for January 17th, 2011

On the Chang Tang

I wrote this past week about Jeremy and Eliza, my nephew and his wife, and their adventure to climb Aconcagua in Soth America.  After arriving in Mendoza in the foothills of the Andes, they set up for  preparations at hostel there that is a gathering spot for international climbers on their way to and from the mountains.  There they met a Swede named Janne Corax.

Of course, the name meant nothing to me but it turns out he is a legendary figure in the world of adventure travel, a man who is best known for his bicycle treks that have taken him all over the globe.  He rides his bike to the mountains, climbs them, then mounts his bike and pedals home.  I’m not talking about riding a few hundred miles down the road here.  He has several times started his journey from his home in southern Sweden , pedaling to Tibet to climb the peaks there then back home via the bike.  At this point he has logged over 82500 km on his cycle.  That’s over 51000 miles.

The picture shown here was on his website and is from one of his journeys across the Chang Tang plateau in Tibet.  The Chang Tang is a vast barren plateau that is about the size of Texas in size, all at an altitude of between 4500 and 5500 meters.  That’s between 16000 and 18000 feet which makes this a very high altitude.  Corax was the first cyclist to ride across this severe terrain.  Actually, he’s done it twice.

When I saw this photo it reminded me of an image I had in my mind many years back, before I had started painting.  It was almost identical to this image of a lone figure crossing a vast desolate plain with mountains rising  directly behind it.  It was something I struggled to capture in writing  but could never capture the essence of how it made me feel.  For lack of a better term, I called it the Big Quiet, a term I still use today.  It refers to a personal paradise for me, even in this harsh and desolate context.  An environment free of the constant throb and noise of man.  The world laid bare, at it’s most essential.

So, here it was.  He had found the Big Quiet that I could only imagine.  Actually, I could never do what he has done.  But knowing that it is still out there is a comfort and I am glad there are people like Janne Corax to inspire the imaginations of others with their determination and their daring in seeking their own Big Quiet.

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