Over the course of four years (1999-2002), author and retired journalist Bernard Ollivier trekked the ancient Silk Road on foot from Istanbul, Turkey to Xian, China. He accomplished this monumental 7,500 mile (12,000 km) feat by overcoming aches, pains, illnesses, poor sanitation, lost and broken gear, heat, cold, torrents, snow, mountains, deserts, unlit tunnels, vandals, animals, sandstorms, crazy drivers, bureaucratic red tape, chaotic cities, loneliness, doubt, despair, checkpoints, and every other possible hindrance and annoyance imaginable to achieve his goal.
His travelogues allow one to learn about countries and cultures that we seldom hear or read about here in the United States. Throughout the majority of his long journey, Mr. Ollivier experiences numerous acts of the kindness and charity from people he encounters along the route, whether it was the constant offers of rides from disbelieving truck, bus, and car drivers; gifts of meals, snacks, and drinks from people he passed; or overnight accommodations from even the poorest of the poor families who has little else to give. Would most of us do the same here in the West? I seriously doubt it as too many in Western societies have become jaded, xenophobic, and/or selfish.
Particularly heartening were the many homes opened up to him as a revered guest in Turkey, Iran, and the mountainous Central Asian nations of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Humanity was clearly on display, particularly by those of the Muslim faith. Even in China, he was more welcomed by residents of the Uyghur Muslim community in western China than elsewhere. This fact alone ought to make many re-think their perceived biases.
On a personal note, this blog author would like to thank Mr. Ollivier for his inspiration to remain active throughout one’s life. As one who has now reached the same age as he did during the final year of his vast journey, I have used his example to set previously unfathomable goals for myself. It’s his trio of books, more than any others, that have inspired me to regularly hike and take up scaling peaks in earnest both here in New Mexico and elsewhere. As a result, over the past five months, “peakbagging” has become a true calling. One can find inner peace and joy from many sources. My personal source just happens to be vast scenic vistas from or of magnificent mountains and deserts.
Hopefully, I can also develop his penchant for quickly making friends and acquaintances along the way. As an introvert, that may be the hardest goal of all for me to achieve.
Thank you, Bernard Ollivier, for sharing you epic quest…your dreams…your adventures…and most of all your inspiration. I will forever cherish your three Silk Road volumes: Out of Istanbul, Walking to Samarkland, and Winds of the Steppe.
Below are links to all three of these three marvelous books, which are available through Amazon.com.*
*A small commission is earned from purchases that are made using the above links to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.