I am incredibly excited to announce the publication of my first full-length book, Pedalling to Kailash. It tells the story of a bicycle expedition over the Roof of the World, from Islamabad, Pakistan to Lake Manasarovar in western Tibet back in 1998.
I just did an interview with Aaron Millar of the Armchair Explorer podcast about the book and about the journey that inspired it. Aaron produces a very professional podcast and made me sound a lot wiser, wittier and more coherent than I actually was during the interview. It's a great listen, which you can hear by clicking here. Enjoy!
On July 13th, Kirkus Reviews, one of the biggest book review sites in the world, weighed in on Pedalling To Kailash. (Click here to read their review.) They said that the book is " an erudite, informative, and highly readable cycling account", and that "the author effortlessly transports readers using his concisely evocative, descriptive style." So don't just take my word for it; Kirkus Reviews thinks it's a great read!
On June 9th I was featured in the newsletter of well-known Canadian travel writer Bill Arnott, best-selling author of Gone Viking (there's a sequel, Gone Viking II, coming soon). It was a fun interview, touching on Jeopardy and my favourite Muppet as well as the book. Click here to read the interview.
On June 4th, Reedsy Discovery, a prominent book website focusing on self-published and independently published books, launched their Pedalling To Kailash page. I hope that this allows more prospective readers to find the book and start reading!
An interview (late May) about my international teaching career, how I weave together teaching and travelling, and a bit of a pitch for my book. Well worth a listen! Click here to hear the episode.
The French wasn't beautiful and fluent, but I think I managed to convey my excitement and some of the story of Pedalling To Kailash during an interview in late April with the French-language Radio Canada network outlet in Ottawa. Click here to see the video of the interview.
Jordan, a book blogger from Tennessee, stepped outside her usual reading genres to read and review my book on her blog Read, Eat, Repeat. I'm glad to say that she loved it. Some of what she wrote:
" I really liked the tone of Pedalling to Kailash. Despite the many perils (sandstorms, intense cold, intestinal distress, and countless bike breakdowns) encountered on this journey, Graydon presented the story with humor and represented it as an overall positive experience. .... While I didn’t leave this book inspired to bike across many miles of foreign soil, I did leave it feeling inspired to challenge myself to try something outside my comfort zone. If you are in the mood for a funny travel memoir with lots of beautiful descriptions of scenery and culture, pick up Pedalling to Kailash. "
It's May, and the early exuberance of ranking high on Amazon's best-seller lists and competing with William Dalrymple are over, with sales are ticking along much more slowly. I have been practicing the hard grind of marketing a book, and it's been a slow learning curve. On the positive side, though, there have been plenty of glowing reviews, so I know that what I've written is being appreciated by my readers. Now I need to put the book in the hands of more readers. I've had a couple of interviews with media in Ottawa, as well as with a podcast for international school teachers. I really want to do more interviews, get more reviews and start to break out of the bubble of people who know me personally. Stay tuned as I try to find my marketing mojo!
As of the evening of Feb. 26th, Pedalling to Kailash is ranked as the #3 best-seller in Indian Travel and #4 in China Travel on the Amazon Kindle best-seller lists. I'm keeping some illustrious company, with books by some of my personal heroes like William Dalrymple, Doug Scott and Peter Frankopan rubbing shoulders with my humble offering. I'm extremely excited, and I hope that this becomes a trend!
On February 25th, just one day after launching the Kindle e-book for pre-orders, Pedalling to Kailash was listed as the #1 New Release on Amazon's list of best-selling travel books about the Indian subcontinent. I'm not sure how impressive that truly is, but it can't be bad. A huge thank you to everyone who has pre-ordered the Kindle version!! I hope that this sales momentum continues.
"Graydon may have missed his calling as Dos Equis' 'Most Interesting Man in the World.' A polyglot and polymath, who is as well-read and widely-traveled as anyone I know, in Pedalling to Kailash, Graydon takes us along with the Xtreme Dorks on an ambitious and wild-hearted bicycle tour through the Karakoram and Himalaya, and then onwards across the gruelling Tibetan Plateau. Along the way, he casually fills in delightful details about the land, people and history. The result is a poignant reminder of how curiosity, good hearts, iron wills and perhaps most critically self-deprecating humour are the keys to opening new landscapes--both foreign and within."
Bruce Kirkby, adventurer and author of Sand Dance and Blue Sky Kingdom
"I was sorry to read that Graydon Hazenberg's Pedalling to Kailash has still not found a publisher. It certainly deserves one, and perhaps the passage of time has actually added to its interest. It describes a family expedition across Roof of the Word made in 1998, a time when the chances of unaccredited travellers not being arrested may have been slightly better than today but when the facilities were fewer and the roads considerably worse.
"This last was a matter of concern because Graydon, his twin sisters and their two boyfriends had chosen to tackle the most formidable terrain in Asia on push-bikes. A century earlier the Americans Fanny Bullock and William Workman had warmed up for the Himalayas by cycling from the tip of India to Kashmir, where they switched to walking boots for the Karakorams. The Hazenbergs flew into Islamabad, pedalled out of the airport and kept on pedalling - and pushing - up through northern Pakistan, round the Karakorams, across the sands of Xinjiang, over the Kun Lun passes, out onto the Aksai Chin and down through western Tibet to the great pilgrimage sites of Kailas-Manasarovar.
"It was a brutal marathon but it makes for an engrossing read. Punctuating the punctures, the author's reflections on the history and culture of the region betray extensive research and good judgement. Not many will be tempted to follow in the Hazenbergs' tyre-tracks, but someone who has slipped across so many dodgy frontiers and blagged his way past so many Chinese security guards will surely find a route to get this fine narrative to a wider readership."
John Keay, author of When Men and Mountains Meet, India: A History and The Great Arc
"A debut memoir chronicles the adventures of a small band of cyclists nicknamed the Xtreme Dorks who set off for Tibet.
"The prospect of riding some of the highest roads on Earth had long excited Hazenberg, who, as a child growing up in the 1970s in Thunder Bay, Ontario, was fascinated by maps of the great continents. In the book’s opening, the author describes how literature further opened his young mind to adventure, later leading him to take on a Ph.D., which he lost the motivation to finish. After successfully applying to be a contestant on the quiz show Jeopardy! he used his prize money to spend three years exploring the world. In 1998, he convinced his two sisters, Audie and Saakje, and their partners to cycle from Islamabad, Pakistan, to Tibet, their goal being Mount Kailash, an important Buddhist pilgrimage site. The journey was grueling, punctuated with thrills, spills, and eyebrow-raising encounters, from stone-throwing kids to benevolent gun runners. The author embroiders the odyssey with rich historical and factual details and, at the close of the memoir, reflects on the significant political shifts that have taken place since he completed his trip. Hazenberg’s affinity for literature is prominent throughout this sharply penned book. The author effortlessly transports readers using his concisely evocative, descriptive style: “A golden carpet of grain stalks shimmered in the sunlight. Apples and apricot grew in neat orchards, and pencil-thin Lombardy poplars provided windbreaks and fast-growing firewood on the edge of fields.” Hazenberg adds further layers of interest by including carefully researched historical tidbits: “We passed under Churchill’s Picket, a hilltop military post where a 22-year-old Winston Churchill saw action in 1897.” Such facts slide fluidly into the narrative and serve to further illuminate the passing landscape. Avoiding the pitfall of focusing too intently on the demands of the itinerary, the author is acutely aware of local customs and cultural differences: “The women were shocked by Saakje’s shaved head; we had by now learned that only women taken in adultery or being shamed as prostitutes had hair that short.” Far from presenting mundanely reworked field notes, as is sometimes common in this genre, this is a refreshingly intelligent, multifaceted memoir that will entertain and inspire cyclists of all abilities.
"An erudite, informative, and highly readable cycling account."
"A well written account of an epic adventure cycling over the Karakorum Highway and across Tibet in the author's youth. So much has changed in this region that many elements of this journey would no longer be possible - but it is a classic account of a hard-core cycling adventure in a fascinating part of the world. He did the suffering so you don't have to - enjoy it from your armchair - recommended!"
Niall Corbett, Amazon reviewer
"A great read of youthful adventure which hardly seems imaginable these days. Live vicariously through their exploits on the roof of the world with this meticulously well researched book. Not only an adventure story but a compelling insight into the history of the people of the highest mountains on earth as well as early explorers to the area. Well worth your time."
M. Wright, Amazon reviewer
"I must admit that I would not be considered an avid pleasure reader, in fact my wife was shocked to see me reading a book. I finished the book quickly as I was captivated in the recounting of this incredible journey. I thoroughly enjoyed not only the account of the journey but also the added cultural, historical and political backstories presented."
Seanny B., Amazon reviewer
"I was completely spellbound by the time I finished the book. It was well beyond my comprehension as to how this group survived the trials and tribulations of the journey: the heat, the cold, the exhaustion, the intestinal disturbances, the breakdown of the bikes. The perseverance and fortitude displayed by the group is almost beyond belief."
Charlie Adams, Amazon reviewer
In the summer of 1998 I set off from Islamabad, Pakistan on a heavily-laden mountain bike, accompanied by my sisters Audie and Saakje and their respective partners Serge and Lucas. We were pedalling along a long, convoluted route that would lead us eventually to the holiest mountain in Asia, Mount Kailash, located in a remote corner of western Tibet. The journey would take more than three months and test us to our physical and mental limits, but it was perhaps the most formative and fulfilling trip that any of us would ever undertake.
Pedalling to Kailash tells the story of this expedition: its highs and (frequent) lows, the landscapes and people we encountered, the cultures we interacted with, and the history that permeated every corner of the terrain. We crossed the highest mountain ranges on earth, where the Hindu Kush, the Himalaya, the Karakoram, the Pamirs and the Kun Lun mountains collide to form the Roof of the World. The physical challenges were daunting, but in some ways it was the mental challenges of our inner journeys which were harder to overcome. I hope that you find the story compelling, and that it inspires you to undertake your own exploration and adventure in whatever field of endeavour you choose
It was 1:00 pm somewhere on the sweeping plains of western Tibet. All morning we had been crawling like overladen ants across a vast landscape that seemed barely to change from hour to hour. Our bicycles bumped and wobbled across the loose gravel, thumping with metronomic regularity across the washboard ruts created by rare passing trucks. Our heavy panniers, bulging with tents, sleeping bags, spare parts, fuel, warm clothes, books, pots and pans, stoves and much more, banged rhythmically against our long-suffering luggage racks. It was maddening, exhausting work keeping the bicycles moving at barely above walking speed, watching for lines where the ruts smoothed out for fifty blissful metres and we could lift our aching eyes from the road to look around at our surroundings.
Finally I called a halt at a spot indistinguishable from any other along the track. The five of us were all desperately hungry, our bodies emaciated from weeks of propelling our ponderous bicycles across some of the highest roads on earth without enough to eat or sufficient rest. I had been dreaming for the past hour of devouring an entire pan of cheese-laden lasagne by myself, accompanied by a Greek salad of Olympian proportions and a litre of ice-cold beer. Instead we put down our bikes, opened our panniers and rummaged around for bags of peanuts and slightly rancid raisins, reclining in exhaustion on the dusty ground, trying to extract every last scrap of taste and calorie of energy from our meagre fare, rationing ourselves since we had no idea where we would next be able to buy anything to eat. We slaked our thirst with slightly murky water flavoured pungently with iodine drops. Nobody spoke for a long time; our ears were filled with the maddening whistle of the persistent crosswinds that had raked us all morning.