After four years on the saddle of a bike and nearly 40,000km of pedalling, photographer Rob Lutter is now telling the epic tale of how he cycled the world in two beautiful new books – one photographic hardback and one a written story. He has just launched the Kickstarter campaign A Thousand Dawns to get them written and published.
"The Kyrgyz plateaus were golden, vast, spreading out like a roof to the world. Wild brown grasslands drifted on for miles and the small shapes of nomads roaming the plain by horseback could be seen on the horizons..."
It was a strange sensation. After thousands of miles of open, scorching desert snow had begun to fall, hitting my cheeks and lips and ears softly. My left hand was gripped to the iron handle of an oil tanker, clenched and frozen in the storm, my right to the handlebar of my bike. I was hurtling up a mountain, pulled along a driving speed through a blinding Himalayan blizzard. This was dangerous stuff, but the quickest way to reach the pass before the world went white.
The truck drove on with the hoot of a horn as the land sloped downward. I waved a thank you and pulled down the hood of jacket before descending through the wind and snow. I was in nomad lands, I’d been there for weeks, slowly winding my way through a network of valleys and plateaus, trying to cross into China. But now, for the first time, the weather was reminding me: this was no easy place to travel through, nor survive in.
Since the flatlands of Uzbekistan the world around me had been full of joy and freedom. Rising up into the clouds to where mountains sat upon mountains. The Kyrgyz plateaus were golden, vast, spreading out like a roof to the world. Wild brown grasslands drifted on for miles and the small shapes of nomads roaming the plain by horseback could be seen on the horizons. No cars would pass for hours on end along the silent, potholed roads. No travellers would be seen. No english spoken as I passed through small clay settlements and
nomadic yurts by the roadside, picking up bowls of soup, dry bread, soda and boiled sweets from whatever shack stores I could find.
I was free. After a year on the road out of London, I was finally free. Camping where I pleased. Cycling as I wished. Capturing the world from the saddle. Waving to its people as I went. Always to my side vast, white peaks that rose into the nowhere with deep gorge rivers below, that flowed clean and fresh.
The storm cleared after a nail biting descent. In the half light roadside caravans twinkled, smoke rising. I pulled in, drenched to the bone and numb from the storm asking a local for tea and some warmth. She pulled me inside, threw a blanket upon my back and thrust a hot bowl of borsche into my hands.
Aagh, Yrakmat! I sighed and the lady simply smiled, her little child running about, poking my strange shoes and climbing over my shoulders. From where I sat, through a small window, the storm was clearing and a vast ring of now-white peaked mountains were circling the valley. An hour went by before the sun broke, my clothes dry, my tent pitched up outside and all of the families from neighbouring caravans stepped out into the light. The child was running and screaming along the hillside in happiness, his father swinging him around and above his head for fun.
This is what it had come to, this is where I was in the world after a year spent on the saddle of a bicycle. From the dark streets of London, unable to smile, unable to see a way out to the heart of The Himalayas, miles from home, miles from anywhere, finding joy in the smaller things as the sun warmed my face and the sound of laughter washed over my ears.
There was a common language and, for a moment we were just humans all trying to find joy, all staring into the setting sun together, up here in this true wilderness. There was life to be found beyond the clouds…
'A Thousand Dawns' Kickstarter Campaign
The book A Thousand Dawns is a tale of adventure, a journey into the unknown and a life lived on the open road. Four long years of stories, like my day in the Kazakh desert, to car crashes in Malaysia, riding with the nomads in the Himalayas and bribing policeman on Croatian highways all crammed into one neat little book. The chapters will weave moments from my past and struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder into the the journey itself, cycling solo for over a thousand epic dawns.
As a photographer I wanted also to document the ride visually and the accompanying photobook Lifecycle is a collection of landscapes and cultures from over thirty countries seen from the saddle as I cycled east around the world. Both books can be pre-ordered separately or as twin collection and there are also photo postcard sets to collect at a lower price level.
I met so many kind folk along the way and even had a Kickstarter supported in Hong Kong to help me keep going. A week after completing the journey, back in England, my bike was stolen from our family home – strange to think, I used to fear the world beyond my home country! But actually, what I found out there, on the highways of our beautiful world, was kindness, generosity and support. Now is my chance to finally share the story of the adventure with you and for all those who helped me along the way.
Visit Rob’s A Thousand Dawns Kickstarter page for more…