Leaving Tirana I headed once again for the coast; the lure of simple navigation, keeping the ocean to the right hand side, the relative ease of camping on the beach; the guarantee of a swim morning, noon and evening and the promise of boundless sunsets made for an easy choice.
Living with the weather is as much a part of the challenge as any other aspect of a world cycle. Your waking hours are spent in it, your movements can be determenined by it and your sleep can be disturbed by it. The weather is your everything. Obvious as this may sound, the last few days have been a stark reminder that on a long trip you really need to be prepared for the worst and ready for anything.
The Cycle Touring Festival is something of a homecoming. In 2015 I set off on my most recent journey. My first big solo trip: UK – Vietnam – UK. There’s a beautiful symmetry to this year’s event since I’ll be there to give a talk about my experiences from the last two years on the road. In fact I’ll be giving two talks; one about cycle touring in Burma, India and Nepal and the second talk titled The Consciousness Cycle, is about the life affirming effect of long distance bike travel.
At length, I finally made it to the boat. What a week. Since leaving the family home from the Village in sleepy rural Staffordshire on a fully laden bicycle it feels more like I’ve been riding a rollercoaster than a bike. I’ve toasted friends’ birthdays, drank endless cups of tea with Grandmothers and conversed with World cyclists. I’ve not even left the country and I’ve already been gifted numerous meals, stayed with a wonderful couple in Rawdon (thanks Dave & Sue) and been loaded up with more cake than you can shake a stick at. People are lovely. I feel blessed.
For our first day ride of the year we set our sights on an easterly journey of just over 70km, destination – Southend on Sea. An early start was always going to be a relative concept given Ade’s proximity to the brewery (Ade is the Ops guy at Crate Brewery in Hackney Wick) so at length I arrived at the Peanut Factory (Ade’s house) at a leisurely 10am. The few miles cruise down from Highams Park some of the best of the day. Joggers jogged, teams assembled on the playing fields poised for imminent battle and cyclists in great numbers headed out in the opposite direction bound for Epping Forest.
To kick things off for our year of microadventure Fabian & I decided to head out to the South Downs for a night of wild camping and a brisk cycle to the Roman town of Chichester. Our initial plan was to cycle to Winchester and camp out in the National Forest but let’s just say that Google Maps’ beta cycling maps are less than ideal (we spent an hour navigating Guildford Research Park going around in circles following the robotic directions of the charming Googlebot lady). Continue reading
The Dunwich Dynamo, the dun run, the French might call it ‘the beautiful madness’. Whatever you call it, the dun-run is a whole lot of adventure packed in to a single night. This year, my third, we (Fabian and I) got a group of newbies together to tackle the 120 mile night ride to the coast. A motley crew of mainly girlfriends, friends and a German intern called Silvan. Continue reading
A small child screams, dogs bark, hens cluck, sheep bleat, and a cow jumps over the moon… just kidding, there were no dogs around. We’ve just entered the house of Mr Mohammed Zerouat and his granddaughter is bawling her little eyes out at the sight of the two lycra clad gringos that just walked through her front door. She’s currently hiding behind Nanna Zerouat, as we later come to know the old lady baking bread in an open fire hole in the ground. We’re invited to eat said fresh bread and drink mint tea immediately.
Waking in the desert plains with mountains to our right and behind us, we look ahead to a flat road stretching as far as the eye can see, nothing of note but small trees and goats climbing and eating them. So, we set out at a blistering pace (for our bikes and luggage that’s maybe 18kph) heading to towards the coast, in particular, Agadir. Continue reading