Whilst some of us use the odd bicycle to commute to work,
do a bit of fitness, or just enjoy a scenic ride around the outskirts of
Chiang Mai, others take it to an extreme, especially if the plan is to spend
eight months on a bike, pedalling around 210 kilometers a day.
Bernward Elsel nickname “Benni”, is a 25 year young
German geography and economics student who has taken the extreme route. He
says that he’s got it in his genes. “My Grandfather toured some of his
neighboring countries on a bike, my father did it in the 60’s and 70’s
to England, and I just literally follow in their steps,” said Benni.
Taking an eight months time-out of his studies, he
decided to cross Asia from Sumatra to the Himalayas, and currently enjoys
the plains and hills of Northern Thailand, before he continues to Laos, back
to Bangkok, to Kunming, Lhasa, Mt. Everest, Kailas, Islambad and finally
Delhi. A reasonable ride! With a boyish smile, he told Chiangmai Mail that
he sometimes felt like an alien, in places which very rarely see westerners.
One remote village on Sumatra even closed the local school for a day, just
to see the strange looking man on a bike.
While Benni calls it a little exercise and a dream come
true, there is more to this undertaking than just enjoying the sights and
sounds of different countries - there is a charitable reason. Benni is
raising funds for one of the projects here in Chiang Mai, the ‘School for
Life’, a model to change the lives of the poorest of the poor. However,
Benni is not begging for money or financial support, he approaches people
who may fancy collecting stamps and postcards from all over the world. For a
donation as little as 15 Euros (708 baht), the donor will receive a number
of postcards from various stations along Benni’s route. Benni said the
worst thing that has happened to him so far was sunburn which developed into
a rash, requiring antibiotic cream, which in turn gave him an allergic
reaction. But Benni has his Doctor at home, online, sends him some digital
pictures of the rash, and receives medical advice via email. Other than
that? “I broke my nose. I went surfing on Koh Lanta, and the waves were
Benni will continue his studies to become a teacher, and his lucky
students will enjoy listening to his travel stories. An interesting young
man who lives his dream.
the ‘resting places’ for the night on the way up to Chiang Mai. Benni
has his tent, just in case he has to camp.
than enough volunteers to take care of the bicycle.
Elsel with all his equipment in front of the Chiangmai Mail office. The
bicycle 18 kg, the extra one in the back 7 kg, with 30 kg left for
necessities, including tent, medication, cameras, CD, CD burner, water
gear! A joke in itself!
‘Thank You Benni’ T-shirt from the children of the School of Life for
the adventurer before his leaving to Laos.
and Garlands as arrival presents. Benni was overwhelmed by such a welcoming
when you carry everything and wheels can be repaired, sometimes you need a
shop and hope they will find something that fits!
It was a
VIP welcome for somebody who traveled the world and personally delivered
bicycles ‘by bicycle’ for children much less fortunate than others.
the midst of children and volunteers at Joy’s House. Joy standing in front