A restless soul

A few days after returning to England, I was asked if I was a restless soul.  I am still trying to work this one out.  Of course, in many ways the return to family and familiarity is welcome.  A bed that I can starfish in, belongings beyond the cycle bags, knowing what is round the next corner and the low beamed warmth of the local pub are all small pleasures that I am really enjoying.  Conversations don’t need to start with where I’m from, what I’m doing and where I’m going.  

With it’s splash of russet colours, this time of year has been kind to me and whilst I am hibernating in rural rolling Sussex, I have the joy of waking to misty mornings and the subtle kaleidoscopic graffiti over the landscape as if spray painted by Autumn.  To get my fix of the unknown there are doorstep discoveries of paths never previously explored, viewpoints unseen and all within a few hundred metres of the farm where I grew up. The same eyes, a fresh perspective. 

On the other hand, I miss the simplicity of life on the road.  Eat, cycle, sleep, repeat.  I miss the luxury of being outside in the elements all day with few distractions other than pot holes and lorries.  And I miss that sense of unassailable freedom and fitness that 8 hours in the saddle gives. 

I’ve been dislocated from a world of news bearing stories that upon return seem increasingly sad and hopeless.  Two jungles burnt – one accelerating our chance to turn back the clock on climate change and the second causing a dispersal of shattered dreams of a better life.  

It is too soon to determine the repercussions, other than a desire to lead a life less ordinary. And so this restless soul will be making its way to one of those smoke filled jungles to try and assuage the collective guilt of many in our shameful politicians to handle young lives seeking hope.  We are global citizens. 

A few days after my return I reached my target of £8,000 through the generosity of so many and  I may even get to £10,000 – thank you so much to everyone who has supported them ..and me.  I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams that this would be possible.    Thank you from the bottom of my heart and on behalf of all the people you are helping. 

For the Youth Adventure Trust £4,000 allows one vulnerable child to compete a three year activity programme and gain long lasting confidence and self esteem.  

For Re-Cycle £4,000 will allow school children in rural Zambia to attend school regularly and avoid a two hour walk daily. Anthony says “With my bike I can carry water much better and I always get to school on time”. Anthony’s bike saves him energy for lessons and homework and is a tangible help to his life.

Youth Adventure Trust – https://www.justgiving.com/cycleodysseyYAT
Re-cycle – bikes for Africa- https://www.justgiving.com/cycleodyssey


 

Epilogue – the end?…

I feel honoured and privileged to have had the opportunity to witness the incredible beauty of a landscape unfurl in all its wondrous variety. As a cyclist you feel part of it. You feel every bump in the road; you bounce along tracks like a pea on a drum or glide down effortlessly through high sided mountains. You smell the fresh cut hay; the tarmac after it has rained, or the stench of recent roadkill. You hear the gentle cow and sheep bells; you grip the handlebars hard with the roar of an approaching lorry. You hear the silence. You witness the farming calendar unfold as crops grow verdant green, are cut golden yellow and ploughed earth brown. You feel small, you feel exhilarated, you feel lonely, you feel strong.

The kindness of strangers and generosity has been overwhelming and humbling.  There have been countless incidences of warmth and humanity along the road.  Whether it has been Thomas, the Vespa driving German policeman making sure I was OK in the longest, deepest, darkest Norwegian tunnel, or Corinne & Herve who invited me in and gave me a guided tour of Loire chateaus after I pitched my tent by their watermill .  If there is one thing I’ve gained over the miles in a world where materialism and self absorption often seem to dominate, it is my desire to keep that wheel of altruism turning.  As a solo female traveller, one of the questions I have often been asked is “Aren’t you afraid?”   I would be lying if I was to say there haven’t been moments in my green tent bubble where I have thought that the bogeyman was coming to get me.   These have been temporary and entirely fabricated in my over imagination.  In many instances, being alone has worked to my advantage, and hospitality offered more readily.

As the dust of Southern Spain gets replaced by the dew of Autumn chill, and the wonder of the midnight sun metamorphises into the long low shadows of Winter, the “What If’s” at the beginning of the trip are now becoming “What Next” …. and so the adventure continues.

As a newbie to blog writing it has been a surprisingly interesting and enjoyable element of my journey which has passed many minutes of thought time on my bike.  A huge thank you for everyone’s encouraging feedback and comments.  I hope to find home adventures to continue writing about for those that are interested on a more domestic view … until the next exploit emerges.

It feels appropriate to finish with the words of my father for this particular cycle odyssey.  For it is my parents I have to thank for never curtailing that sense of adventure or independence of spirit. My mother’s encouragement and support when I have called crying by the roadside with fatigue and frustration or with high pitched excitement at a jaw dropping vista has been unflagging. I know she is proud of this endeavour as my father would have been and I am eternally grateful for the nurturing unconditional love given to all their children with an unwaivering encouragement to discover, to be curious and to follow our hearts no matter what direction it has taken.

My father wrote in his diary after travelling with the army at the age of 21:-

“It has been a year of experiences, staying in any one place no longer than three months, seeing new countries, new cities, new people, new customs, gaining knowledge everyday in many spheres, which one may call living a life. No one can live a life unless he is conscious of living it by absorbing and appreciating, accepting and rejecting the life in which he finds himself. My interest in life has been stimulated by variety. To be ever interested in life is possibly an idealistic philosophy. It is certainly a claim against the office desk.”

I am dedicating this post to them.

Youth Adventure Trust – https://www.justgiving.com/cycleodysseyYAT

Re-cycle – bikes for Africa- https://www.justgiving.com/cycleodyssey

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the wonderful Lofoten islands

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an early morning start

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my beach apartment

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Spains plains

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Spains not so plains

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there is no place like home

 

 

 

 

36 00′ 15″ From Tarifa with love

8 countries, approximately 8000 kilometres and 101 days. The cycle odyssey is over (for the moment at least). Although I have reached my end goal, it is the series of small victories and challenges won that have brought me to this point. Whether that is the physical burn of groaning muscles as I’ve crunched up a mountain or the sense of being self sufficient and utterly alone as I’ve unpacked my tent in a secret corner for another night of hobo life on the road.  

When I consider the overwhelm of getting off the plane in northern Norway with 8000 kilometres of unknown ahead of me, it feels like a different world, a different me. I have entered each country with a sense of trepidation but it is Norway and Spain that have provided the biggest rewards and opposing challenges. Cold versus heat, rain versus sun, mountains versus plains. If they were people, Norway would be the slightly neurotic friend with a good job and a life plan. Spain would be the temperamental friend who doesn’t always turn up but when they do, you know you’re going to have a good time. 
My last week of life on the road has been one of mixed emotions. Pride that I’ve got this far, a sense of the surreal and disbelief that it is shortly coming to an end. From Seville I headed over to Cadiz, the oldest Western European city founded by the Phoenicians and an important strategic trading link between the Americas and Europe. With its bustling alleys and shouting down the street, its not difficult to paint a mental image of its previous lives. That is, until you see a group of larger than life, older women in bikinis sitting in a circle playing bingo and cackling.  

Spain with its Latin passion, heat, and disorder has stolen my heart. As I wake it is only just going to bed, and as I head to bed with another day on the road my priority, it is getting its party shoes on. It was still able to throw a curve ball my way in my last couple of days. I had been told many times that the Atlantic coast and Tarifa were amongst the windiest places in Europe. The elements were in full throttle and it felt as if they were trying to stop me from getting to my final destination. Winds so strong I was blown from side to side making a crooked swaying path southwards like a zig zagging drunk after a big night out. 

My friends Mel, Lou and Katherine were there to welcome me in to the most Southern point in mainland Europe, after 8000 kilometres of road travelled. A wonderful end to an incredible journey full of highs and lows with all expectations of adventure, challenge, exhilaration and wonder of our amazing planet fulfilled. And as I look over the Straits of Gibraltar to Africa the blue grey mystery of a different continent’s mountains whispers like a lover beckoning. But for now, I turn my back and head to the green and pleasant land that I call home. 

Thank you to everyone for your encouragement and support not just of my cycle odyssey but of the charities I am supporting. I have raised £6,000 so far of my £8,000 goal and if I get to my target, that for me will be one of the biggest achievements. 

Youth Adventure Trust – https://www.justgiving.com/cycleodysseyYAT

Re-cycle – bikes for Africa- https://www.justgiving.com/cycleodyssey

the most southern point in Europe

the wind shows me who is boss

beach bingo

Arcos de la Frontera

my amazing welcome committee


Some statistics:

Lost – 10 kilos, 1 penknife, 5 tent pegs

Punctures – 0 !!!! 

Replaced – 2 new chains, 1 back cassette, 1 gear set