It was the trip of a lifetime: a 10-year adventure spanning 77 counties.
And a story for every one of the 60,000 km traveled!
Peter and Shahla Nygaard shared a few of their stories at the High Prairie Municipal Library Nov. 2 while promoting their book Decade of Discovery. They spent months walking and years on bicycles as they made their way through six continents, sometimes through precarious and life-threatening situations.
“We spent ten years on the road, following an uncertain path, using various modes of transport,” reads their decadeofdiscovery.ca website.
“Our favourite way to travel is by bicycle, taking up the majority of our time and seeing us through 60,000 km of pretty much every terrain there is.”
Peter explained the couple wanted to see first-hand what the world was like.
“We decided we wanted our own spin based on our own experiences,” said Peter, adding they did not want to rely on media reports.
Little did they know what was in store!
So, after three years of planning and pinching their pennies, they started their journey on Sept. 16, 2004. Shahla, then 23, had recently graduated from university and Peter, then 27, quit his job as a plumber. Both were longing for adventure.
They started in Edmonton – returning 10 years to the day – and went to Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, South America and back.
The trip started in Europe, at first walking, but the plan only lasted four months.
“We realized that was just far too slow. The bicycle, it’s actually the perfect speed for us.”
After Shahla learned to ride a bicycle, that is!
The trip cost about $100,000 or $10,000 a year.
They shared the story of the Frankentrike, a one-of-a-kind vehicle that gave them headaches in Africa.
And how about bribing those border guards in the Republic of Congo at the Immigration Post?
“We knew we’d have to do that!” said Peter.
They ate grubs in stew, and other insects we can only dream about, but it was how people received their protein. Crickets, grasshoppers, and other insects- they ate them all!
And some were rather tasty, too, adds Peter!
There was the time they were in Kinshasa, Africa and wanted to attend a soccer game. Youth were outside the stadium. They were pelted with stones.
“We have no animosity toward the locals,” says Peter. “These people weren’t after us personally.”
Rather, they were angry at foreigners exploiting their country’s vast resource and giving little in return.
“The greatest disparity [of wealth] we saw on the entire planet…”
Shahla told about the time they were trying to leave a county in West Africa but the Ebola outbreak occurred and the entire area was under quarantine.
Another African story was when their vehicle overturned, almost killing them. They showed slides of the hospital – a far, far cry from the hospitals we enjoy here. Shortly after the accident, they heard gunfire. They feared for their lives, but realized later that the troops were merely signaling for an ambulance.
The Karakoram Highway in Pakistan was another story.
“We enjoyed the isolate cultures there,” said Peter.
And they learned that riding a bicycle is socially unacceptable in Pakistan.
“The little girls would throw rocks at me,” said Shahla.
In China, they were caught in a sandstorm, and in South America the fire departments hosted tourists on bicycles by offering showers, a bed, and a place to pitch their tents.
“This endeavour was free from corporate sponsorship and made possible through the help of numerous kind-hearted people around the planet,” reads their website.
“Exploring the world is a dream shared by many and realized by more and more everyday. There is beauty and mystery out there for all of us.”
The book is filled with stories like these and many others.
Please check the website for how to purchase the book.
It is also available at Jerry’s Store in Joussard for $19.99.
The photo on the cover of the book Decade of Discovery shows Shahla Nygaard, left, and Peter Nygaard.
Shahla Nygaard, left, and her husband, Peter, shared their stories at the High Prairie Municipal Library Nov. 2.