25/02/2010 - 00:00

A man, a bike, India

25/02/2010 - 00:00

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India holds a special attraction for Reg Howard-Smith.

A man, a bike, India

CHAMBER of Minerals and Energy chief executive Reg Howard-Smith reckons India is a place that you either hate or love, there is no in between.
With countless trips to India under his belt, the most recent of which was a long-distance cycling eco-tour through the country's southern states, it is fair to say that Mr Howard-Smith is in the latter category.
Aside from its colourful and diverse culture, there is something more profound that draws Mr Howard-Smith back to India.
It's a connection that started after Mr Howard-Smith and his wife adopted their son 11 years ago from the south east state of Tamil Nadu. The family now returns to India regularly in an effort to maintain their son's cultural ties.
But it wasn't the first cycling tour of India for the head of WA's resource industry representative body - he was also pushing the pedals there in 2004.
But that maiden cycling tour was anything but a smooth run, with the Boxing Day tsunami hitting while the group was touring the east coast of India.
Instead of flying home, Mr Howard-Smith's wife and son joined him in India to offer support wherever possible.
Seeing the once-devastated region now being rebuilt was a positive experience for Mr Howard-Smith and his family on their most recent trip.
When he and his family finished the two-week tour on New Year's Day, they had covered more than 1,000 kilometres coasting through three states, exploring the jungles of Bandipur National Park, climbing Ooty Mountain and traversing down India's tropical Kerala coastline.
As a keen cyclist, Mr Howard-Smith has explored diverse countries across the world atop his bike.
From sampling Italian food and wine to discovering a then conflict-fraught Tibet and waking up to views of Mount Everest, Mr Howard-Smith has explored some of the most beautiful parts of the world on his bicycle.
But it is India's continuous sensory stimulation that keeps him coming back for more.
"Other countries are wonderful to go to but with India there is always something to do and you have to expect the unexpected," Mr Howard-Smith said.
He believes the more you get to know of India, the less you understand it - one of his favourite quirks of the country.
"I find it fascinating, marvellous, that you never get bored," he said.
And as the most challenging moment of the tour highlights - an encounter with an elephant - boredom in India seems impossible.
In the depths of Bandipur National Park, Mr Howard-Smith's son returned to the group after momentarily breaking away, warning them of a lone male elephant up ahead that seemed agitated.
The giant charged at the group, who were forced to abandon their bikes for the safety of the support vehicle.
As far as plans for the next adventure go, there is talk of the Indian love affair continuing with Mr Howard-Smith and his son organising an independent cycle tour to explore more of fragrant southern India.

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