Henri Pascal, Isabelle Jenny and their four children are on a cycling tour of the world. Having covered 14 countries, their journey will culminate at the foot of the Himalayas
Adventure is always unplanned. As in the case of the Pascal Jenny family from France, who has undertaken a cycling tour of 14 countries that will conclude with their visit to the most spectacular spot on earth, the Himalayas.
Henri Pascal, an aeronautical engineer, his wife, Isabelle Jenny, a librarian and their four children Jacob, 14, Anna, 12, Claire, 9 and Bartimee, 5, decided to take a sabbatical, for a year, from work and school, and cycle around the world. It was a spark in Isabelle’s “poetic” mind that set the family thinking. Initially it was a “too crazy an idea”, but once expressed they wanted to do so. “It is not a joke. Let’s do it,” said Isabelle recalling the days when the idea was forming.
So the family applied to their respective jobs and schools and took a year off. They started their adventure on April 15 last year and since have been on the road. It has been nine months and they have been to 15 countries, flying into Kochi directly from Kuala Lumpur.
As preparation they undertook just two to three days of cycling around Toulouse where they live. Henri as a young boy was a member of a cycling club and his father was a dedicated cyclist, besides France has a cycling culture, which made things hopeful for them.
“We had to check for the best options for our youngest child Bartimee, who was 4 years old,” says Henri, explaining that Bartimee cycles when he is up to it or is towed behind his father’s cycle or sits on the baby chair atop his father’s bike.
“Once Bartimee was happily fast asleep on his bicycle being towed along,” recalls Isabelle, who is extremely proud that her children have cooperated in this great adventure.
Isabelle and Henri share a beautiful harmony with their kids in living this decision. The family was in perfect unison in this big adventure, with each having an aim and a reason to join in.
Bartimee wanted to celebrate his fifth birthday on the Great Wall, something that he did. “We were lucky to be there on his birthday,” says Isabelle. Ann wished to be on a beautiful island, which she went to in Cambodia. Claire wished to ride an elephant and did so at an Elephant Festival there.
Henri wished to be on the banks of Lake Baikal and see the ancient Angkor Wat temple, dreams that he realised. Isabelle dreamt of riding through the vastness of Mongolia, “to feel its immensity, to realise our minuteness in comparison to the world,” says Isabelle who has a philosophic bent of mind. Jacob’s dream of being at the foothills of Himalayas will come true in the last lap of their journey.
Cycling around the world has been a great experience for them all. Jacob, a bookworm, learnt to read and speak in English during this adventure. “When we reached Russia we were out of books. In China the books were very expensive and only a few were available in English. Jacob started reading the ones in English there. Now he is fluent in the language,” says Isabelle with pride.
She made the kids play a game to help them learn English. It was to ask people who they meet about three things that they would take with them when they leave their country. They collected a vast data but Isabelle is disappointed. “Globalisation has made everything so uniform. People had more or less typical answers of carrying their phones or keys with them. Only few came up with different answers.”
To start they took the North Sea cycling road, which is a cycle friendly road. For equipment the family went in for very basic cycles that would be easy to maintain and repair.
It was also to do with Isabelle’s choice of inculcating a lifestyle of living with simple things. Keep it simple is her adage.
Luckily they have not had any untoward incident except when Bartimee’s cycle came apart. But it was repaired quickly, welded, for just a dollar in Laos. Jacob and Anna have not had a single flat in their journey so far. The delays have been mainly in getting visas and tackling governments especially in Russia, China and India, and also in transporting their bikes.
The adventure has brought them to meet kind and good people. It has restored Isabelle’s faith in humanity. “I use to feel so sad that materialism has made us a selfish lot but that’s not true,” she says, about a Dutch gentlemen who hosted them allowing them to enter his house even when he was not in!
“His trust in us was very gratifying,” says Henri.
“Then the gentleman here in Ernakulam who told us all about routes and distances, offices and houseboat trips,” says Isabelle. The family plans to visits the Ernakulam Temple utsav and take a houseboat trip. From here they plan to cycle down to Mysore, “to see the palace.”
The Pascal Jenny family can be followed on their blog http://sixtette.blogspot.fr