The Five Elements

The two team members of the Five Elements Expedition first met in October of 2009, while volunteering on the board of the Bow Valley Justice Film Festival. Casual conversations between Kevin and Chris soon unearthed a common theme of cycle touring. It was immediately evident that each of them held the same passion for traveling by bicycle and exploring mountainous regions. 

Over the next few months the casual conversations about past trips began to turn into questions about future trips and the two began to quietly talk about an expedition together. Fast forward to the present where the Five Elements Expedition was framed and conceived the prime desire to explore. The expedition takes its name from the classical elements of nature described in ancient Greek and Asian cultures.

The Five Elements team chose to travel by bicycle through Central Asia for several reasons. Being on a bicycle you have no choice but to experience the awesome power of nature, first hand. When you arrive at a village, there is no barrier between you and those who live there, you are constantly interacting. Everything from the terrain, road conditions to weather and the direction of the winds helps to create a greater understanding of the region you are traveling in. Perhaps the reason that we chose to travel by bicycle are that it offers us the most freedom, with no rigid schedules or designated routes to follow. Or was it the simple pleasure of living in a tent for three months? 

Kevin and Chris are both very excited to have the chance to be cycling in the mountains of Central Asia once again. The alpine-like regions of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan maintain a strong heritage of nomadic culture where three generations of a family can still be found living together within a small yurt and herding their animals during the summer months. These mountainous areas with their rutted and washed out roads prove time and again to be a continual wellspring of hospitality, where a stranger will be invited in for chai and bread. These areas also provide a stunning backdrop to the legacy of Soviet history, where remote artillery bunkers can still be found. Stories can be heard from villagers, who barely survived vicious civil wars lasting years and where larger than life statues of Lenin that still stand in the town centers. Here, Central Asia still offers remote areas where the roads are certain to be washed out and deeply rutted and where days of cycling are required to reach the next settlement.

Each member of the team has personal reasons for wanting to be part of the expedition and to ride the ancient Silk Road routes that criss-crossed Central Asia. Some of the more closely held desires for wanting to cycle in these mountainous countries are the challenges that nature offers and equally important are those challenges that need to be examined within ourselves. After cycling for five to ten hours a day, for weeks on end, it becomes increasingly hard to hide from one's self. Eventually the long stretches of open road present the opportunity for plenty of self-refection and introspection. There is also the satisfaction of living simply, knowing that the bicycle holds everything one needs for the next three months. 

We chose the name of our journey, Five Elements Expeditions from the team's desire to connect or perhaps reconnect with the concept of the five classical elements of nature, as described by early Greek philosophers, such as Plato and others, over 24 centuries ago. Early Babylonian, Chinese, Hindu and Buddhist cultures also shared similar classical elements. We feel these ancient elements can be clearly expressed in the simple joys of dealing with the rawness of the environment, of cycling up a pass in the snow, cooking food over a dung fire, drinking from clean mountain streams and waking up in a tent to a silent world tucked deep in the mountains.

We hope that you enjoy this blog and that somehow we can inspire you to explore your own world as well.