Week one - Tears and the wedding
Well what a week I have had. I set off from London on the 2nd May, so today marks the eighth day of New Zealand bound cycling.
Excuse the cliche, but it has been a rollercoaster of emotions. A journey already replete with crying, laughing, dancing, sweating and swearing across English, French, Belgian, Luxembourg(ian?) and German countrysides.
My courageous parents decided to support me on my first foray from London to Dover, Dad by cycle, and Mum following in the car. Dad and I anxiously watched the weather forecast the evening before, biting our nails as it become increasingly clear that we should expect a perfect storm-esq monsoon the following morning. We weren't disappointed, and the first trickles of rain (and a few trickles of tears on my part) ran down our faces as we took farewell photos outside my house in Primrose Hill.
Pedalling south, the first (but certainly not the last) climb of the trip was the steep footpath ascent of the Greenwich observatory, where as Dad pointed out, I was quite literally “resetting the clock” before attempting to pass through over half of the world's time zones.
The tempest intensified and by the time we reached Chilham we had reached the level of cold and wet which makes most basic functions impossible. Mum has scouted a lunch in an old Priory, and after 8 mugs of the sugariest tea you have ever had, I was revived to a semi-functioning state. Good start.
Soon after Dad had his second tyre ‘blow-out’ of the day, and as we didn't have a spare, followed with Mum in the car for the remainder of the ride to Dover.
I got the 2am ferry out of Dover to avoid cycling on the wide French motorways in the dark. Consequently I had only managed two foghorn blighted hours sleep under a table en route, and was exhausted. Nonetheless, I stole a march on the sun after landing in Dunkirk at 5am and made the war beaches for a celebratory bowl of coffee porridge (this is where to save fuel you simply mix instant coffee grains into your prepared porridge - a lumpy block of dynamite to get you moving!)
I kept a promise to my Mum to spend my first continental night in a campsite, and my first sleep was a beautiful camp in Ypres.
The next day I had planned to cycle east to Brussels, where I thought I might catch my cousin, who lives there, for an evening. I texted him, but he informed me he was actually at a wedding in Macon, 160 Km’s south of Ypres, and would I like to come? Feeling that my full two days of riding probably warranted a celebration, I accepted and set sail south instead.
I had understood that the wedding would take place the night before I arrived. To my surprise I arrived the next evening after 100kms of riding, jersey plastered to my back and bottle of wine in hand, only minutes after the ceremony had finished. Swept off back to the cousins flat for a quick shower, and then on to a night of Belgian speeches and celebrations which carried on well into daylight the following morning. I woke up fully dressed, cosy and comfortable inside the sauna of our rented Belgium villa…
The line of sight from Macon to the rearing head of the Carpathian mountain range was directly east, so I re-reset the compass for Bastogne, planning to cross the northern portion of Luxembourg and into Germany via Bitburg.
Yesterday (7th May) was slow and I began to feel the cumulative fatigue of six days riding. I have spent several months carefully planning routes, average km’s per day and weather patterns in order than I make Almaty in Kazakhstan before the snows come in. In Europe this would involve averaging 140km’s per day for five days a week. My slowing, wooden legs and aching body in the south Begian sun yesterday were my first inclinations that this would not be possible. An hour and two climbs later, I was in tears as I realised that failing my plan was a certainty. My emotions were exacerbated by missing my family and the unaccustomed mental and physical fatigue. I knew it wasn't rational. I was cycling through the stunning rolling hillsides in bright sunshine, flanked by lush fields of wild
grass and farmland, what on earth was I crying about?
I resolved to take stock of the situation that evening, and did so at my Bivvie site in the mouth of a hillside German gun emplacement near Vianden.
I am taking a rest day in Bitburg, and have significantly relaxed my journey plan. From here I will take near a whole week to cross Germany, heading first for Mainz, and then onto the Czech border at Cheb.
My SPOT GPS tracker should now be up and running so you can track the rest of my journey by visiting the “Track me!” page on this website.