A life-changing road trip for Skibbereen man

joshua1

Posted on: 5th December, 2016

Category: Features

Contributor: West Cork People

Above: Joshua and a local friend of his, Sanan in Pakistan, were driving around the hills just south of Abbottabad when Joshua spotted some beehives. They stopped to look and when the owners showed up, they were very pleased to meet a tourist and gave Joshua a jar of their honey as a gift, refusing any kind of money.

Skibbereen man Joshua Matheson, (34), has just completed a solo nine-month trip from Australia to Ireland, travelling through 30 countries in a Toyota Landcruiser Prado and raising funds for Medicines San Frontiers (MSF), a charity that works in almost 70 countries around the world, providing emergency medical care where the need is greatest.

Joshua’s travels took him through some of the world’s most repressive countries but in an effort to show the goodness in society, he is writing a book about his adventures, which he says “is filled with positive stories of people helping people”.

Along the Pamir highway in Tajikistan, Josh drove through an area called the Wakhan Corridor, where people live in a high-altitude desert surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Perched on the mountainside with Afghanistan on the far side of the valley, Josh passed by a Tajikistan Army Ranger checkpoint. “It was getting late in the day so feeling cheeky I asked where was a good place to sleep for the night,” says Josh. “The Army Ranger Captain thought for a moment then offered myself and my companions a room in the army barracks. It was a pleasant night not without its drama…”

After a number of failed attempts to obtain a visa for Turkmenistan, Joshua, accompanied by a new crew of kindred travellers from Finland, Germany and Japan, decided to head to the border to cross into Uzbekistan. “Crossing into Uzbekistan was a memorable six-hour adventure,” he says. “We even had to present pictures on our phones for inspection!” Accepted into Uzbekistan, Josh and his new comrades visited Samarkand and Bukhara, which lies close to the Turkmenistan border.

However, one of the main highlights of his trip included driving through jungle in Nagaland for 10 hours going about 20km distance over rock, mud and water. “Locals showed me shortcuts around washed out broken bridges and a guide found me a place to stay and food. This is not where tourists often venture,” says Joshua.

Another high point of the trip for Joshua was Tajikistan. “For its breathtaking view and wholesome people,” he says. “The roads were flanked by ever-changing wild flowers and overlooked by snowcapped mountains. I was with two solo travellers and we stayed with local families, had lunch with nomads, helped out two English bikers who had been walking out of the mountains for two days before seeing us and swam in mountain lakes and bathed in natural hot springs.”

These four babushkas were hitching a ride along a dusty track in the Tajikistan mountains, so Joshua gave them a lift to the next village. They were very grateful and insisted Joshua and company come for some tea. They all had a good laugh even without sharing a common language.

These four babushkas were hitching a ride along a dusty track in the Tajikistan mountains, so Joshua gave them a lift to the next village. They were very grateful and insisted Joshua and company come for some tea. They all had a good laugh even without sharing a common language.

Tajikistan was where Joshua met a 15-year-old girl who had dreams of becoming an ambassador. “Her family gave us dinner and a bed asking nothing in return. She was so innocent but had a determination that was an inspiration,” says Joshua. “We talked with her for hours in English, as her father, who could not speak English, watched us, beaming with pride. I left with her a book I had finished called ‘Into the Wild’ by Jon Krakauer, which I hope will help her on her journey.”

To find out how more about Joshua’s journey, keep an eye out for his book, which will be out early next year. If you are interested contact Joshua via facebook: Joshua Black Matheson where you can also find many of the best photos of the trip. If you would like to donate to MSF and support the people putting themselves in harm’s way to provide medical care to those who need it most, you can do so directly at https://give.everydayhero.com/au/turn-left.

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