I know I have been saying this for a while by I am actually finally off!!!!! For all those people that keep saying “your still here then”, I challenge you to arrange a 5 month cycling trip in a few weeks, its pretty bloody hard! I had the best intentions of going as soon as possible but to be honest have been pretty knackered after finishing my degree and had so much stuff to arrange (I had pretty much done none until a few weeks ago!). I have also had some set backs in the last few days such as a broken sat nav, which was replaced pretty much instantly by Garmin without even asking where I got it or if I had a receipt (lucky considering it came off eBay!). It was really amazing I was mega impressed with their service. I posted it at 5:15 and they had a replacement in the post by 1 the next day, so a massive thanks to the dudes at Garmin.
I have also had a change of route as the ferry to Denmark was going to cost 260 squid which I think is way too much for me and my trusty steed (not sure about this yet as I have only been on her for a day, but lets hope she is). Instead I will get a ferry to The Netherlands for 33 notes then ride the 700-800 km to where I was initially going to start from. This is pretty cool 1) because Holland is flat, 2) because it means I get to go through a few countries initially to get my tally up and most importantly 3) because I appear to have chosen a route right over the mountains in Norway so it will give me time to get my legs match fit before attempting it!
I have had an amazing final packing day in the shire with blue skies and sun hopefully this weather will be following me round Europe (if it does then you probably won’t recognise me when I return!). Packing for a cycle touring trip is an interesting business. As I’m going for a long time I need to account for all eventualities (it could well be snowing when I get to Andorra) and also be reasonably comfortable when camping. I have done some cycle touring before in New Zealand and this made me realised a number of things. For instance although though they are light and easy to cook in a hurry, you can only live off super noodles for so long before you start to feel more than a little crap! I also learned that the main thing that will be on any cyclists (but specifically cycle tourers) mind is weight. They won’t buy anything without asking how heavy it is or is there a smaller one available. There is a good reason for this as on those long climbs (some of which can last for hours) at every pedal stroke you ask yourself, do I really need that six pack of beers, why do I want an inflatable pillow and why did I think it was a good idea to pack the kitchen sink. Because of this I have been trying to pick my gear carefully and keep the weight down. Unfortunately this often means shelling out huge amounts of wonga to very expensive outdoor shops to shed some grams and get stuff that’s compact. I’m not going to pretend I mind though as like all cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts I’m a bit of a gear head, and easily exited by shiny gadgets and gismos.
In the last few days I have also been observed systematically ripping pages out of my European atlas saying things like “that’s too far north”, “I don’t want to go there its full of French people” and “sod that have you seen the size of those mountains”. I have not reached the stage of cutting the handle of my toothbrush or drilling holes in things yet but who’s to say I won’t get there after I hit the first few hills.
I think I have managed to get my gear pretty much perfect, nice and compact and pretty light whilst still having some comforts like a shower (no I’m not joking its ace, although a bit chilly if the sun isn’t out to warm it up) and (like all Brits should have) a nice big frying pan so I can cook a proper full English breakfast every once in a while!
My bike passes the ‘can I pick it up test’, you would be amazed the number of people I have met before who carry so much they actually have to take their panniers off the bike to lift it over a curb! No doubt I have forgotten stuff and taken loads of things I don’t really need so I’ll have to re-evaluate after the first week and have a ruthless cull of gear (some backpackers might end up getting lucky and find themselves acquiring all sorts of interesting goodies)!
I’m setting off first thing tomorrow morning and heading towards Cambridge which will probably take me a couple of days. After that I will be heading to Harwich to get a ferry over to The Hook of Holland and from there who knows where I will end up so stay tuned to find out!