I have been away from home now for just over 2 months and I have been on the road now for 6.5 weeks of that time. I would like to share my first thoughts on life on a road. Although this is a small time in terms of bicycle touring I’m planning on writing this post every 2 months that I’m on the road. What follows is my thoughts on life on the road mixed with stories of my time on the road.
I have just finished Europe after 5,000km and now heading further East.
Life on the road can be empowering.
Now that I’ve reduced my life to living out of 4 bags life is pretty simple. I’ve also noticed though that although my daily routine is simple it is also the simplest of things that can completely change my day for the better or the worst.
Being held back by the humidity of the Black Forest I spent all day trying to cycle up the hills and made a total distance of 25 miles all day. I stopped off in a restaurant thinking that I just needed some a kebab and pizza so I rested at the first one I saw. I took this chance to hydrate myself after losing an enormous amount of water through sweat. I went into the restaurant and placed my order, the guy behind the counter, a Turkish fella looked at me with big eyes and disbelief. I just assumed that I stunk and looked like a tramp no doubt, I didn’t think much of it. My food came and he was still looking at me in disbelief, firing glances at me and Mariee. I finished my food and went to return my plate when he started speaking to me,
“Where are you from?”, “Liverpool, England” I replied.
“You came on bicycle”? Yeah heading to New Zealand”
He turned to his friend and told him in Turkish he replied with a shrug, he wasn’t that arsed. I asked to fill up my water bottles, he declined and gave me a big bottle of water instead. He came outside and looked at Mariee again with his eyes even wider with a smile and nodding up and down in approval. He looked at me and said,
That was it, I felt as though I’d had a weeks rest, completely hydrated with the best food in the world and plenty of it. In 3 hours of riding I’d managed to knock off another 40 miles and made it to my destination which I thought I wouldn’t reach until the day after. Mariee felt so light like she didn’t have panniers on. I’ve come to learn that unexpected motivation can be powerful and can completely change your day.
This is without doubt my favourite part of life on the road. You never know what’s going to happen in the space of 10 mins. In Hungary while riding through some deep gravel, I came off Mariee and landed pretty funny on my hand to the amusement of the locals who were laughing. About 15 mins later I was lying on a secluded beach on the Danube river with only about 5 locals present. I had asked at the bar if there was a place to camp they let me camp for free on the banks. Life is random. It was the perfect way to say goodbye to the Danube as I was leaving the day after looking for a more direct route to Istanbul. I said goodbye with a quick midnight skinny-dip under the stars, amazing.
After saying goodbye to the Danube in Harta I had planned for a big day to try to get to Serbia. The day started well and I’d managed to get rid of all my Hungarian money by stocking up on the 3 C’s, coffee, coke, cookies. I had about a 70 mile cycle to do on the back roads but it I calculated that I should be in Serbia by 5pm. So off I went, after battling a head wind all day I made it to the border crossing after 72 miles of cycling and pretty exhausted. At the border crossing the women looked at my passport and walked over to the other border crossing officials. In broken English I was told that I wasn’t allowed to cross because I was from the UK. I was confused, tired and I just couldn’t work out why. Eventually we understood each other; that border crossing was for Hungary – Serbian nationals only. Totally gutted! I’d gone to the wrong one, I had to cycle back! After 72 miles of cycling my heart sank but there was nothing I could do, I had to cycle to the next border crossing which I was told I would be allowed through. As I started to make my way to the other crossing which was about another 25 miles away I was pulled over by a police car who demanded my passport. He took it and started looking at every page and every angle, I guess making sure it was real. He took it and then on his walky-talky started talking. I could only wait and see what would happen. I waited for about 20 mins while he was on the phone constantly flicking through my passport. I was getting more and more annoyed as the sun was falling and I had another 20 odd miles to cycle to get back on track and I needed to find a place to stay as I wasn’t going to attempt to cross an international border at night with no money and heading straight into a city. Finally he got off his phone and asked me where I was going, I told him the actual border crossing which I was supposed to go in the first place. Right answer, he seemed to understand in his broken English. He gave me my passport back and I set off again only to be shouted at to stay. What now! I had been waiting for about 25 mins and just wanting to get back on track and rest. He was waiting for a phone call, after a quick call with someone I was allowed to go and they smiled and said their goodbyes.
Although frustrated at having been delayed they were only doing their job. After a bad afternoon and tired legs I got back on track and again the randomness of the life of the road showed its head once again. With no money I arrived at a hotel too late for food the people at the hotel insisted that I had to eat something and phoned a pizza for me to eat which they converted some of my euros for me in order to pay.
You have good days and bad days.
I got organised and woke up at 6am and headed a couple of miles to the McDonalds that I noticed the day before to take advantage of the free Wi-Fi. I name my destination and find a campsite there on the internet. I add the directions to you GPS and off I set. Knowing where I’ll sleep at night brings in some comfort on some days. So I set off early for a 80 mile cycle fully stocked on food and water knowing that I’ll be on a cycle path all day with no hills and the sun is shining. I start to make progress but 80 miles is a tiring day for anyone. Soon enough I arrive at my destination just before sunset, time to find the campsite. I see a sign for camping and I’m looking forward to a shower and a rest and hopefully a chat with come other cyclists hopefully doing crazy distances. I follow the sign for a couple of miles and nothing, no more signs or anything. I stop to ask and no one speaks any English or can understand my gestures. I continue to ask around and are told that the nearest campsite is another 15km from here in the opposite direction that I want to go. Stranded in a city before sunset and refusing to pay for a hotel I have to find somewhere to wild camp in the city. I end up in a cemetery which has some woods just by the side. I wait until the last people leave and just lay my sleeping mat out and sleeping bag hoping that the rain doesn’t come. What should have been a straight forward day now turns into an all nighter as I can’t sleep as there’s too many strange noises in the forest and what sound like footsteps. I lay awake in the forest unable to sleep no doubt fuelled by the days cycling and all the endorphins pumping through the body. What little rest I did get that night was interrupted by a slug type thing who decided that its next meal would be my scalp, trying to find this thing through my think knotted hair was quite a challenge but eventually I found it and flicked it away.
Life on the road is everything I thought it would be and more.
Rewarding, frustrating, liberating, tiring and so much more I highly recommend it.