Welcome to Iran!

[This post was written on 18th February in Tehran, but posted from Uzbekistan]

I have too much to say I can’t think what to write! SO much has happened since our last post and I’m beyond excited just thinking about all the adventures we have had (as Steve would say, I’m nostalgic already!). I suppose I should start where Ryan left, in the mountains in East Turkey….We rode out of the city thrilled to be back on the road after a few days rest; we’d made it from the coast of the black sea up to Erzurum (a section of the ride we’d been worrying about since leaving England 5 months ago!) and in 300km we would be entering Iran, WAAAHOO! We’d already cycled over mountains and camped in the snow, coping fine with both, so we were feeling a bit too relaxed about the next section.

On the first night after leaving Erzurum we snuck off the snowy highway to pitch the tent, just out of sight from the main road. We were initially pleased with our spot, but started to worry when we checked the thermometer which read -18 degrees…the sun was still up dammit!! We frantically ran around whilst windmilling our arms, trying to warm up as the sun disappeared behind the mountains and the red line dropped even further. Words cannot describe how much this kind of cold hurts, the next 3 days were going to be the worst I have experienced.

We struggled to put up the tent with numb double gloved hands and endured lots of snapping at one another before we eventually got the tent up and our kit inside. All our water bottles were frozen, so Ryan fired up the stove (thankfully petrol doesn’t freeze at these temperatures) while I collected snow. It takes at least 10 pans of snow to fill up one bottle and is a horrible task when you’re tired, hungry, dehydrated and cold beyond belief. Dinner was stone cold 1 minute after being cooked even though we ate straight from the pan.

As I stuffed my fully clothed and jacketed self inside my sleeping bag I wondered why the hell I was here. I was miles from nowhere, freezing and exhausted and horrified at the thought of the chilling nights ahead. Endless lorries offered us rides as we battled awful weather that day and I was very much regretting my insistence on continuing by bike at this point! Inside the tent it was so cold we had to zip our sleeping bags up over our faces and pull the cords shut tight to trap any warmth. Ryan reached outside during the night to grab the thermometer which read -25 degrees!!!!

The next morning the inside of our tent looked more like Santa’s grotto as our moist breath had condensed, then frozen, during the night. It was just so cold that the simplest tasks were a struggle, at least I didn’t have to bother getting dressed the next day and there was no nice warm bed to leave. To be brutally honest, I felt shell shocked by our situation.

The next evening we rolled out our sleeping bags and found the feathers had clumped together and were full of ice. We definitely weren’t prepared for this and we were being taught a harsh lesson.

When we finally emerged from the mountains 3 day later the road rolled gently over hills dotted with crumbly mud homes. Sadly Eastern Turkey was visibly poorer, we were now in Kurdistan, and people would proudly tell us they were “Kurdish, no Turkish!”. As we pedaled towards Agri along a particularly desolate stretch of land, a couple of teenage boys with pitchforks jumped in front of our bikes to barricade the road. I was in front and slipped past but Ryan was forced to stop. They demanded money, and as Ryan tried to cycle away one boy held onto his rear pannier bag to stop the bike. Heart pumping with panic, I turned to go back but Ryan shouted to me to keep pedaling – so fueled with adrenalin I raced on. I turned to see Ryan leap back on his bike and kick the arm of the boy holding his bag, which gave him a chance to get away. We kept cycling as hard as we could for a couple of kilometers before we eased up. Our senses were very sharp for the rest of the day. We’ve had a few instances of kids throwing stones at us while shouting “money money money” in East Turkey, but almost half heartedly and from a big distance. But this was something far more sinister and we were both quite shaken afterwards. It’s a shame because these incidents made us much more wary, so when the next group of youngsters sprinted alongside our bikes smiling and cheering I was anxious, and although I laughed with them I subtly sped up so they couldn’t keep up for very long.

Our goal for the night before the border crossing to Iran was the town of Dogubayazit, which sits huddled next to the magnificent Mount Ararat, Turkey’s highest mountain which is famous for being the supposed landing site of Noah’s Ark. The final stretch of road to the town was like most we have ridden in Eastern Turkey – patches of perfect tarmac followed by unrideable terrain where the road is being replaced. We usually choose to ride the side of the road that is being rebuilt as it is closed to traffic, whereas the other side hosts lorries and cars flying terrifyingly close in both directions!

On 17th January we arrived at the Iranian border, slightly battered but over the moon to have made it. We zoomed past the miles of lorries queuing at the border and then wheeled the bikes through no man’s land and through large iron gates painted in bold Iranian colours. “Welcome to Iran” chorused the grinning armed police.

We converted some dollars with a savvy money changer, bank sanctions mean that foreign bank and credit cards don’t work in Iran so visitors need to carry all the cash they’ll need in Iran over the border – preferably in Euros or Dollars. In return for two crisp $100 bills we got an inch thick stash of monopoly money which wouldn’t fit in our wallets!!

With Mount Ararat dominating the sky behind us and a great view of Iran spread out below the border post, it felt like the perfect start to the next section of our ride.

The landscape was confusing as the dusty roads, clay huts and camels are desert scenes to my mind’s eye, but the ground was still covered in snow. Most of Iran is above 1000 metres in altitude and therefore very cold during winter. We rode about 30km to Maku where we had our first wander and a bit of time to look around.

All the women wear either hijabs (headscarf) or chadors (full length black cloth draped over every inch of body except their faces, or in the extreme their eyes). Soon I would feel naked without my hijab on and Ryan now yelps when it slips off (as though i just did a moony!), but at first it felt odd. We would soon learn that there is a very open and liberal Iran behind closed doors, but initially I was very nervous about doing something wrong and causing offence as there are so many laws for women – including not being allowed to ride a bike!! I dyed my hair dark brown in a vain attempt to draw less attention as bright blonde hair stands out a bit here. The next day I jumped in fright when I glanced down to see a furry slug on my shoulder, before realising it was my pony tail!

From Maku it took three days to reach Tabriz, the first major city with 1.4m people, and the road was awesome – much flatter and smoother than recent days. Although we struggled to find food each day as the road was empty, I really enjoyed these days cycling.

We spent a few days sightseeing in Tabriz before beginning the 650km haul to Tehran. We planned to take the tollroad highway (the safest option as most traffic travels on the narrow ‘old road’, with no hard shoulder) so we needed to stock up with three days rations as there would be no villages or shops for at least 300km. We found a bakery and 10 minutes later pedaled off with a pannier bag bursting with steaming bread – a gift from the man ahead of us in the queue. A few kilometers later a cake shop owner spotted us and hauled us in for some spectacular cakes, which we couldn’t resist.

More offers flew towards us which we had to refuse as we were getting nowhere, but after about 20km a tea break sounded good and we accepted an offer from a gang of young welders clad in black leather. After this stop we really needed to press on, but a man waving on the side of the road had driven past us and was now waiting for us outside his house! Unable to decline, we went into his amazing holiday home and met his extended family and gaggle of over excited children. After a snowball fight and some playing in the snow we feasted, sat cross legged on the floor Iranian style.

After all this we were too tired to continue and finally agreed to stay with our host, and now friend, Mr Ali. We insisted the holiday home was perfect for us to roll out our sleeping bags, but Mr Ali wouldn’t hear of it and drove us to his “proper” house in Tabriz, and so we were back where we started. After two amazing days spent with Ali’s family we persuaded Mr Ali that we absolutely had to start cycling again and so, reluctantly and with our bags bursting with gifts, we finally left Tabriz.

That day alone proves that Iranian people love to show foreign guests literally unbelievable generosity. It’s so different to the norm back in England that it has made us feel awkward at times. Every day we are shown the most incredible hospitality, I feel really welcome in Iran and it is by far the most interesting and beautiful country I have ever travelled in – not because of the landscape but because of the people.

Every Iranian we meet asks what people in England think of Iran. When discussing our route with people in England before we left, Iran was always the country that raised eyebrows, usually because of the unfavorable stories in the media. Even in Turkey, also a Muslim country and neighbors of Iran, we were forever told how dangerous Iran is.

Many of the Iranians we’ve met are all too aware of their reputation in the west, however unfair that may be, and want to quash the negative images. Iran does have its problems, and we’ve heard many complaints about life here from people we’ve met, but first hand experience shows that Iran is a beautiful country full of kind people and I hope with all my heart that this amazing country is given the opportunity to be free.

Iranian homes are boiling in winter, with huge stoves kicking out a million degrees of heat into the one room where everyone eats and sleeps. I am often given prime spot next to the stove as soon as we arrive. In one of the more conservative and religious village homes we stayed in I sat sweltering with a purple face poking out of my hijab and layers of cycling gear for hours (literally!) unable to remove any clothing. Meanwhile, Ryan sat with the men who fired questions about religion at him – at one point they asked him if he was satisfied with me, no worries that I was sitting a few feet away!! The next morning as we cycled off down the dusty track from their home the Grandmother gave me a framed extract of the Koran (well I think that’s what it was) and followed us down the road sprinkling holy water on our tracks, touching and surreal.

The rest of the nights between Tabriz and Tehran we spent camping in tunnels under the highway which were absolutely perfect for us being both hidden and sheltered. Despite being days to the next shop we were never short of food as people continuously pulled over to give us tea, bread, nuts, water and anything else they were carrying!

Cycling into Tehran took a whole day, the city sprawl is massive and Iranian traffic is mental – no matter it’s a 3 lane road there will be at least 6 abreast and cars piling onto our precious hard shoulder beeping relentlessly. But, regardless of the obstacles of late we have made it to Tehran in one piece and it feels pretty good to be here:-D

The Black Sea

We had a massive break in Istanbul, 11 days off the bikes in total! We hopped from budget hostel to nice hotel when Dad came for the weekend and finished off spending a few nights with Emma and Justin, who are living in Istanbul for 6 months before continuing their cycling tour home to New Zealand. Probably a good idea as they’ll avoid the Central Asian winter that we’re on a collision course with! I had a practice bash at making pizza with just the utensils we carry on the bike – they didn’t look up to Pizza Express standards, but Ryan wolfed the lot and we now have a third dish to add to our pasta mush and rice slurry repertoire.

Cycling out of Istanbul and out into the Asian landmass was exciting, despite it being the start of the more challenging and unknown section of the tour. We have learnt so much already and our confidence has grown, the thought of cycling across continents doesn’t seem quite as daunting now as it did when we left 3.5 months ago. I suppose most people attempting to cycle halfway round the world would do a few smaller tours first for that very reason, but not us! Our training consisted of one return trip to Brighton.  At least we weren’t over prepared.

After leaving our hosts in Istanbul we pedalled north up the Bosporus towards the Black Sea, where we’ll be spending most of December. We enjoyed the seaside villages and blue skies as we meandered out of the city sprawl and began getting a taste for the hills – which later on will torment us. Ryan was still suffering from a bout of illness picked up whilst in Istanbul and was munching antibiotics like sweets, so we kept the pace lazy and the days short, but it was good to start moving.

We got our first glimpse of the Black Sea after two days and that evening we hauled our bikes along the sand to make a beach camp. We found a secluded spot before Ryan made a solo streak for the icy water leaving me giggling (and warm) on the sand. The dry night and mild weather enticed us to roll out our sleeping bags on the deserted stretch of beach and not bother with the tent. It was surprisingly comfortable on the soft sand and we were asleep soon after sunset. The crashing waves and brilliant stars made it quite a special night, and each time I woke I was amazed by the beauty of our little insignificant spot under the night sky. You should all try it this summer!!

As has become usual in Turkey we have had lots of spontaneous hospitality over the past few weeks. Every day we meet new people in new villages and get a glimpse into their daily life. We’ve stayed with lots of kind families already including sailors, farmers, policemen, Kurdish workmen and shopkeepers. The people we have stayed with invite us into their homes a few minutes after meeting us on the side of the road.  Once inside there is usually a flurry of calls to bemused neighbours and relatives who pop over to see the “bisiklets” and crazy “Ingilizce” during the evening. Sometimes we’re handed the telephone to say “hello” which is generally greeted by shrieks of delight and laughter. I never get bored of the excitable chatter as people listen to our story of what we are up to, even if usually people struggle to grasp that yes we are cycling the whole way and we haven’t flown to Turkey with our bikes! The Turkish homes have all been filled with tasty food, noisy banter, endless cups of cay, laughter and sometimes bum wiggling dancing (which Ryan is awesome at). It is always difficult to pedal onwards the next day as they all want us to stay, as do we!

Further along the coast line we spent a night in Sile, which is a pretty seaside town with a big harbour, where we treated ouselves to a Pansyion (a cheap hotel) and slept for 12 hours. Even though we’re never more than 6 ft apart [except when we’re going uphill!] occasionally it’s still nice being just us two for a lazy evening with no tent or phrasebook to battle with.

From Sile the weather took a turn for the worse and we left our cozy bed for torrential rain, within minutes we were soaked to the bone. We discovered our rain clothes are pathetic despite claiming to be ‘waterproof’ (should’ve done a practice tour!) and water gushes down our legs, inside shoes, trousers and pretty much everything. Not fun when you have to sit on your arse outside for 6 hours then crawl into a wet tent and put on the same wet clothes tomorrow. We have just ordered painfully expensive new outer layers, but in order to stay warm as we head into the coldest winter either of us will have experienced it’s important that our clothes don’t get soaked through every time it rains or snows. At least here on the coast in Turkey it isn’t as cold as England yet! We have enjoyed checking the weather out at home and seeing London fall apart in the snow:-)

Given the biting rain, wind and hills we have been surprised to have had some of our best days so far. Violent waves, winding climbs and snow peaked mountains is pretty awe inspiring stuff from two wheels, so we do get rewarded for our efforts. It’s a great feeling being curled up in the tent at night and thinking about what we achieved and experienced in the day. The other night I was zipped me up my sleeping bag with just my mouth exposed to keep warm and was being fed cookíes, unfortunately only on a cycle tour is that acceptable behaviour.

Between Karasu and Eregli we were delighted to have a stretch of smooth flat road, much more like we’d imagined the coastal highway would be like from our limited research (we now think (hope!) it starts after Samsum in 300km). The mountain roads reappeared too soon and as we cycled along an exposed cliff top road out of Zongaldak with ferocious winds and even more rain we were fighting for every revolution of the wheels. The thought of getting round the next corner was horrific, let alone NZ! On tough days like these it’s priceless to be rescued for some precious minutes by friendly villagers, who toast us dry by the blazing wood burning stoves that are the centre piece in every tea house.

The temperature dropped as the road moved away from the coast and into the mountains, as we climbed higher from Filyos we were surrounded by snow (which was a relief as Ryan had refused to cycle another climb without seeing snow that day!). The roads became very icy, occasionally we had to push the bikes as it was too dangerous to ride. It’s so frustrating not getting the thrill of a fast descent after an exhausting climb! One family we stayed with explained that just 2 km further inland the snow is waist high at the moment. I think we made the right choice to stick to the coast, however we will have to tackle the snow at some point. We both agree that cold, clear, icy days are infinitely preferable to rain in any format!

The road is now back on the coast and wiggles back and forth and up and down over the lumpy cliffs, so we pedal 5km for every 1km of coastline. Its been pretty gruelling and we are having to rely on each other to keep morale high as the relentless climbing and slow progress take their toll.

We are currently enjoying a rest day in Inebolu after having spent last night dinning in a police station. During the meal a phonecall resulted in one guy casually getting up, pulling a big handgun out of a desk drawer and tucking it in his trousers before strolling off! A little reminder we really are out of Europe.

Tomorrow we head towards Samsun, maybe in time for Christmas – fingers crossed Ryan gets enough chocolate to fill my perpetually hungry belly!

Earthquakes and Mini Mountains – Budapest to Nis

We spent six whole days in Budapest! It is a brilliant city full of colourful bars, cafes, museums, a huge castle and thermal baths to relax tired legs. We got some welcome visitors from home and were treated to a few nights in a luxury apartment in the fancy part of town. Thanks Mum! The city is famous for its alternative courtyard bars so there are hundreds of cool and cheap places to go… Katy and Bill came with us on a rare night out to see a band, Drag the River, and we all had our fair share of the local tipple VBK (translated as red wine and coke). The locals really do like their red wine here, we even found a red wine fountain buried in the network of underground caves that flood the city. If it wasn’t for the previous night I would have relished it…

I felt a little lonely the first day after all the hustle and bustle of home left, it’s pretty quiet on the bike and for those that know me well will see that it’s a challenge for me to go so long at a time with just my self as company! The average day for us consists of a huge amount of pedalling and an endless cycle of eating, clothes changing and comfort stops. I’ve learnt the tough way that if I’m desperate for a bathroom break I have to act all nonchalant, other wise I swear someone knows and makes sure there isn’t a bush in sight or scatters farmers everywhere. If I don’t need to go the dense forest mocks me as I cycle past. Grrr.

From Budapest we cycled back along the Danube river and had a bit of a rough ride down bumpy tracks with terrifying dogs angrily chasing and barking at us. I surprised my self (and no doubt Ryan!) with how loud I can scream when one leapt out of the trees and went for my leg, even if it was just a small one it was still horrific!

We cycled for hours down the same path starting to look for a place to camp, frustratingly we couldn’t find anywhere safe and as the sun started to set Ryan suggested we just roll out our beds on one of the fishing jettys which lined the bank. It looked very romantic, but I decided I just couldn’t trust myself not to roll off into the icy waters beneath so we kept going, plus the bank was of course lined with more menacing dogs (don’t let the picture deceive you into thinking it was tranquil!). Eventually we found an old fisherman’s lodge and after some odd sign language and extra loud talking in our native tongues we were offered a bed for a few pounds each. We were then generously given a bizarre fish head stew for dinner, which we ate politely whilst restraining our gag reflexes, and continued our game of charades as we all attempted to communicate with each other.

A few days later we spent a night in Baja with another host, Ben, who is planning a big cycling trip next year. Ryan and he both rowed so there was a bit of chat I zoned out on while I ate the delicious home made pizza:-) I can’t express how incredible it is when we arrive at a house and get warmth, comfort, friends, a bathroom and all out of pure kindness. The next day we continued through our first proper border crossing and into Serbia. Excited to show our passports for the first time since Dover we pedalled out into our 9th country and I’m sure it got instantly hotter! Since arriving in Serbia over a week ago we are yet to see a cloud – even the tent is warm, dry and toasty at the moment.

Novi Sad was the first main city we came to in Serbia and we stayed with a family who lived at the top of a savage hill just outside the city (which we both had to walk up). Shockingly the family have no drinking water as the supply to their house was cut off from a bomb over a decade ago and it still hasn’t been repaired. We have also seen buildings that are still lying desolate with holes blown out of them – a sad reminder of how recently Serbia was at war. The country is noticeably poorer in areas and we have found it difficult to find safe and discreet places to wild camp so have been “splashing” out on accomodation more often. The people here are so welcoming and as friendly as ever, it’s such fun when we meet someone who can speak a little English. Yesterday a guy gave us a giant pot of honey and went rushing off to get his son to meet us and take photos once he read our “magic letter”, translated into Serbian, explaining our trip.

We arrived in Belgrade after a long slog down main roads with some suicidal drivers overtaking around hairpin bends and over blind summits. Exhausted, we cycled straight past the place we arranged to meet my friend Dom at and got lost in the city for a few hours in the dark. Grumpy Bex would be an understatement for my mood, however a local cheered us up by offering to help and walking us to the right place. He then gave us 500 Dinar (approx 5 pounds) to buy some food, I guess we looked worse than we thought!! When we finally met Dom he took us for a KFC which we gobbled down tastily before Ryan went to get a lasagne for pudding.

Dom has an apartment in a communist style block of flats which are in the new part of Belgrade. We were all woken in the night by an earthquake which was frightening, the next morning we sadly discovered a couple of people were killed and the quake measured 5.3 on the Richter scale.

 The next day was a rest day but after all the sightseeing my legs were just as tired as they are after 100km on the bike. After another fairwell and a cheesy grin from Dom we hit the road once more. The cycle out of Belgrade was absolutlely glorious, I’m tempted to say my favourite so far. The weather was (and still is) perfect and the landscape mountainous and interesting. The big downside however is the increasing amount of roadkill, the further east we go the more cats and dogs we see sprawled out in front of us – which horrifyingly I can’t help but look directly at as we dodge past. Also, my Sherpa is broken – I have had to start carrying more kit and he is getting evermore cheeky. I’m sure if I had gone for one of the Mount Everest ones I would have dinner and camp waiting for me when I arrived at our destination each day!

We are in Nis now, and in two days we will be arriving in Sofia. It’s weird how far we seem to be getting on our map!

Oh and one more thing, my knees have miraculously recovered (wahooo!) and I’m in danger of getting fit. The hills don’t seem so bad these days and I even take the lead and let Ryan rest behind my big arse from time to time.

Wild camping and Beer – Munich to Hirten

I’m anticipating that I will enjoy writing this post a lot more than the last one, and I hope it’s more fun to read!

The knee is on the mend, and we’re a team again, YAHOO! I have had a fright though so we are having a few weeks of lower miles, and Ryan keeps cycling with his hand on my back up the hills. Thank you to everyone for sending me encouragement, it was so lovely to hear kind words from people back home and stopped me feeling too blue.

After being spoilt by my dad for a few days in Augsberg we headed to Munich for the beer fest where Bex Sheldon awaited us (thanks Bex and Dad!). The Oktoberfest is totally mental, the tents are more like giant buildings and the whole place is a circus of drunks. We had more than our fair share of steins (well it was Bex’s birthday) and spent most of the night dancing on the tables – it’s amazing how well the beer sorts out a dodgy knee!!

We met up with another friend, Tom Smith, who happened to be in Munich on Saturday night and I managed to split one of the only two pairs of trousers I have. I’m not talking a little tear – I managed to rip them up the entire inside leg around the crotch and a few inches the other side, and I had to stumble home trying to hold myself together. Hilarious at the time, obviously. The next day saw me in H&M having a brand new shopping experience. As I entered the shop floor I scoured the room… past all the sparkly tops, floral dresses and jeans and my eyes landed on the corner full of dowdy anoraks and tracksuits, BINGO! As I began the selection process there was no “does my bum look big in this” or ” I wonder if these go with that top” – I felt the fabric, predicted how long things would take to dry, how small they would pack and how much they weighed. The colour was obvious, the most washed out dirt black colour I could find.

After the Munich blow out it was great to get back on the bikes with a rested knee and we headed east. We had our first wild camp deep inside a forest and I am VERY proud to say I experienced only a 30 second panic during the night, the irrational fears were of course:

1) A lumberjack man wearing a plaid shirt and dirty jeans (the cockroach bloke in MIB) is waiting until I fall asleep and is going to drag me out of the tent and attack me

2) I was about to be the silent witness to some horrific crime, Ryan won’t believe me, and so I will have to go out in the rain to investigate where something horrific is awaiting me

3) We are so well camouflaged that a bulldozer is going to plough over the tent killing us both, or even worse just Ryan and then I would have to finish the trip alone as a tribute, ARGH!!!

I know all the men reading this will think I was being irrational, but I am truly impressed the fear only got me for a short time!!! I managed to settle into a solid 12 hours kip after that and was excited to wake up the next day feeling like a little explorer in the woods. I’m sure we have many more wild camps ahead of us, and I will eventually feel at peace with the whole thing.

We continued east for a few days and are staying with some hosts in Hirten. I am continually being amazed by the generosity of people, this our 5th night since leaving home that we have been given food, a roof and wonderful company out of pure kindness and we’re still on the doorstep of England. I genuinely can’t wait until we are able to return this kindness to others once we get back home.

The first mistake

The cycle to Holland was pretty hardcore as Ryan has already explained, and I really enjoyed getting stuck into some big days riding despite the rain. We have had glorious weather recently but I’ve not been able to enjoy them so much as I wrecked my knee already!! I could gloss over all the pants bits of this trip but I’ve decided that if people are bothered to read this blog I should give them the bad along with the good, so here goes…

I fiddled with my bike a lot the weekend we left, i.e. changed the pedals, added toe clips and moved the seat (accidentally). I pedalled for hours every day regardless of the fact that my knees were getting more and more sore due to my poor position on the bike. I was taking nurofen at the time as I had a bit of a chest infection after the first few days of rain, I suspect being exhausted before we even left didn’t help either. Anyway, the pain killers must have masked what was going on a bit (in hindsight I was a total shambles all round!). By the time we reached Holland I couldn’t even sit on the toilet it hurt so much to bend my knee!  I’ve been barely able to cycle all week, but have had to do the miles regardless as poor planning by me (annoyingly) has meant that we made some over stretched commitments to meet people further down the road on certain days.  The combination of the enforced mileage plus bad knees is that I’ve had to get trains for the middle part of each day whilst Ryan has cycled on his own.

The cycling that I have been doing this week has been incredible and definitely the most beautiful cycling so far. The Rhine is designed for cycle touring, and I loved every bit of it. Admittedly this made it even more frustrating having to stop to get the train when I’ve wanted so much to carry on. If I’m honest I’ve had a lump in my throat the size of a golf ball all week. Cycling alone, painful train journeys, hauling my loaded bike about and logistical fuss trying to meet Ryan is not what I signed up for. BUT, no one said it would be easy and I am determined to push through. I’ve since re-adjusted my seat, changed my pedals and ditched even more kit.  The one ray of sunshine in all of this has been Ryan (yes, this surprised me too) who has been encouraging and boosting my morale at the end of his ridiculously long days (yesterday he rode 153km to make it to meet me!).  It’s also nice to know he chose to do this trip with me because I’m me, and not because of my cycling skills.

I do want to learn something from this week, and after having a think this is what I have come up with:

  1. Shockingly, Ryan is fitter than me and can cycle like a machine
  2. 100km per day sounds reasonable from the comfort of home, in reality it’s too far to ride every day with a loaded bike if I actually want to see anything (other than Ryan’s arse)
  3. Despite the disaster that this week has become, I am still looking forward to the rest of the year with abundance and it has no way dampened my spirits – if anything this has just spurred me on even more
  4. Our downfall was making commitments on our most optimistic schedule, which didn’t allow for getting lost, bike failures or injuries.

Anyway, things are already looking better! Dad arrived to meet us and we have a hotel for a few nights which is just what we both need… and I’m so excited about seeing Bex Sheldon tomorrow. We have the whole weekend off, and from then on we can make our own schedule which can allow my duff knee to recover. Ryan will post another update soon about the actual cycling through Germany!