Dutch couple touring the world on bike - The Times of India

Imphal: People in this part of the world are often forced to sell their bicycles to fill up forms in schools or universities and that doesn’t make the headline. But when you see a Dutch couple on a bicycle – or what they call a bike - tour of the world after selling all belongings, including their house, it draws your attention. With all the economic and cultural differences between us, Harry and Roelie Morskate are cycling around the world to gather knowledge about different people, countries, nature and cultures.

Entering India from Nepal on December 12 through Siliguri in West Bengal, they travelled through Assam, Nagaland and now are in Manipur. They left Imphal on Friday morning for international border town Moreh in Manipur and plan to enter Tamu in Myanmar on Sunday morning. They will stop for a night each somewhere between Imphal and Moreh.


Harry (54) has been a mountain biker since childhood while Roelie (43) was mostly into racing. They were cycling across Europe since 2012, with Tuscany in Italy being their first tour out of their homeland. Before embarking on this trip from their hometown of Eindhoven on June 29 this year, the longest they stayed out of home was three months at a go.


Stressed out by a hectic municipality job with the local administartion in Eindhoven, Harry was mulling quitting it to take up this passion trail for the last few years. But blocked arteries opened up new roads in life for him. A open heart surgery with six bypasses three years ago made him look at life differently. Roelie, his second wife, working as a project manager with a construction company, stood as his rock.


“I was any way feeling too much stress with my job as manager in Eindhoven municipality and was thinking about a long journey. We were bored sitting on big couches in a big house, watching Netflix and all on TV and going to office all decked up every day in the morning, stressed to the core. Then this heart problem came up during a mountain biking tour early in 2015. Thanks to my exhausting cycling habits, it was detected early and that saved me actually. Following the operation, I looked at life differently.


“Am I going to finish my life working under stress or take my passion a bit further to enjoy life and nature? A lot of thinking went on for the last couple of years and then we decided to start afresh,” said Harry with a relief in his voice.


Harry has two children with his first wife Christie, whom he divorced around 20 years ago. Son Harjan (24) and daughter Evi (19) are studying and working simultaneously and living with their partners independently in the Netherlands, while Harry’s mother, who is almost 80 now, is still going strong. Harry has been living with Roelie since 2008 after they met for an official purpose and the two got married in 2010.


Expecting to meet Harjan in Bangkok and Evi in Bali or Bangkok in the new year, Harry rued that his children are not into cycling like them. “They use cycle as a mode of transport only and always tell us to take rest and not to cycle for so long. I wish they, too, developed the love for cycling,” said Harry.


However, both are fascinated to experience different types of people and culture on the road. “In Europe, no one cares what you do but here in India, wherever we stop for a coffee or a drink or when we are riding through a populated area, about 50-100 people gather around us out of nowhere. They want to take photos, selfies, may be because we are two odd looking persons.


“It slows us down sometimes and takes us longer to complete a route but it’s also good to meet people on the road, sharing their lifestyle and that’s what we started this journey for. We are not in this to set any record, so we are loving the journey. People have been very kind to us, so far no trouble,” said Roelie.


The Morskates will complete exactly six months on the road on Friday travelling more than 8000km so far through Europe and Asia and have another two years, may be, and more than 40000km through Australia, South and North America to go before they either fly home from Alaska or take a cycle route through some European countries to Eindhoven. The route can change and they can include Africa in it if they feel like.


However, when they go back home they have to start all over again as they have nothing except some money, cycles, gears and tents for their journey through the world. “Only our titanium cycles and touring gears are sponsored while food and lodging are on our own. We are very much looking forward to sponsors for our trip and a part of that will go to a charity we have started before starting the journey, ‘Heart to Beat’. The money will be used for research purposes to detect heart blocks early, so that attacks can be avoided,” said Harry.


Looks like till the hearts beat, the Morskates will do anything to beat any errant heart in their capacity.


“Many friends have told us to stay with them once we go back home. We hope to save some money so that we can rent a home for one month at least, then she can start her job again while I will look for some freelancing as I am too old to get a full time job now,” said Harry as Roelie cut in with a big smile, saying: “You don’t need to take up any job anymore, I will work to support our family while you can write a book may be on our journey around the world. And for sure we will take up a small home this time, what we call tiny housing.”


Bron: The Times of India


Sourav Modak

Times of India
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