by Jeremy John
I open my tent to the first rays of the day and a delightful morning breeze, beckoning me out of the door. As my eyes adjust I am struck by the incredible beauty of the Mongolian steppe, stretching for miles before me. Acres of fresh, green grass, each blade speckled in glowing dew droplets, which have also started to collect on the frame of my bike. With only a few moments left of ‘the golden hour’, I grab my camera and scramble up the rocks behind my tent. Around 300 meters up I turn to see my friends emerging way downhill, starting the morning coffee ritual. ISO: 100, aperture: f/4, shutter: 1/640. I take a picture of the tents, tiny grains of salt in a rolling green ocean. Shooting in the morning is always a delight. The angled sun defining all of the edges of the landscape, offering a radiantly beautiful, yet fleeting spectacle.
Around 400 miles of tough cycling from the capital, Ulaan Baatar brought us to this beautiful spot, and we had another long days ride ahead.
I am not a cyclist. That’s to say, I’m not an enthusiast. But somehow my bicycle, constructed last year in London with a £12 frame, has become one of my most cherished belongings, along with my camera. With my bicycle as my tool, I am connecting the world together. You know that feeling you get when you realise how two places are linked geographically, and two jigsaw pieces slot together in your mind. “Ahhh, we’re here!”. Cycle touring is that on a grand scale, slotting together the pieces of the world. It makes you realise that our planet is small enough to cross with your own legs.
Cycle touring is as demanding as it is rewarding. It’s tough.
Wake up, pack, make breakfast, cycle three hours, cook lunch, cycle four hours, unpack, prepare tea, cook dinner, go to bed. You might go months without a warm shower, only washing yourself and your clothes in cold rivers and surviving on nothing but rice and carrots. You will endure hardships; cold nights shivering in your tent, hours of gruelling uphill gravel roads, arguments, diahorrea horrors. Not to mention the torrent of troubles that can arise with your gear. So why do it? Because of the reward of connecting to remote areas and the people who live there.
I am continually amazed, and in awe of the fascinating variety of minds, styles and personalities on display in the world.
On my bike, I am constantly immersed in my environment and encouraged to connect with other people. I’m so glad that I overcame my fear of approaching strangers, talking to them and taking their portrait. What was once an intimidating task of approaching a stranger has become one of the most meaningful parts of my journey. I meet so many characters along the way and I am very happy that I have immortalised a few to show the world, and remind myself they exist. Often, I look back on my portraits, instantly taking me back to the moments we shared together. I wonder what in the world they are doing right now?
Being at the handlebars can be a meditative, thoughtful place. Besides the wonders of quantum mechanics and what my next meal will be, I tend to think about the future. Not just my own future but the future of the earth. I think the world fifty years from now could be a very, very different place. Many of the practices, cultures and traditions may disappear. This makes me feel both sad and excited to be amongst the privileged few to witness them, to be cycling from place to place, taking pictures–connecting the world with a bike and a camera.
Below is a selection of images of my trip so far, traversing seven countries over nine months. Next, after leaving Central Asia by crossing the Caspian Sea, I will be stopping in Georgia for winter before heading into Eastern Europe and beyond.
You can continue to follow Jeremy’s journey on his Instagram.
Jeremy John is a 29-year-old, London based photographer, who has an eye for the unusual. Acquiring a camera at a young age, coupled with a keen interest in science, encouraged him to chase light most of his life. After working as a graphic designer for five years, he decided to quit his job and travel the world, documenting elements of culture along the way. You can follow his work @jeremj0hn.