Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Moving on...

Bike and body felt top after the rest day, the weather was cooler too, all of which made the day more pleasurable. I swapped my shirt for my thermal baselayer, turns out to be much more comfortable when I'm pissing sweat. The roads were reasonably flat, even still I decided to stop in Saverne rather than pushing on to Strasbourg. On the way into I decend through some great switchbacks that are lots of fun. The campsite was right at the top of the town and required quite a climb before I could rest my bones. I don't mind that - being quite a fan of the "gotta earn it" mentality. As I climb out of the town I notice some very angry clouds fast approaching. I ask them to hold off for another 10 minutes until I reach the site, and to my suprise they do. I shelter in a bus stop for half an hour then don the raincoat and approach the owner to sort my pitch.

My first rainy tent setup went well - I managed to keep the wet out! The rain abates and I get on with dinner. During which Dexter(slight translation) wonders over to say hello. He's in his middle years and from Holland, and speak excellent English. He saw me in Verdun two days ago and is impressed with my speed - that makes one of us! He has a recumbent trike and is putting it through it's paces for a European tour next year. I have a play on it, it's great fun, a very different feel to my own touring steed. He has toured the Middle East extensively so we talk for some time about Iran. Most people I talk to say "Iran...really?" Dexter was much more enthusiastic, telling me about places that I simply have to go and see, and stories of immense hospitality. He tell me about a poem from holland (that I will post if I find it), the moral of the poem is - if you have only one day left to life, go and do so in Esfahan. With renued enthusiasm for Iran and the trip I sleep well.

Distance 68km

I say farewell to Dexter and I'm on the road by 9:30. I struggle to find the canal route out of town so I'm on the roads for 20k's or so. I dont protest too much as I know this guarantee's my cake break, a habit I'm becoming quite attached to! I sacrifce an hour or so thrying to find the canal path, but the flatness that it brings is worth it and I storm along. I chat with a french girl while I take a water break just outside the city. She's very friendly and gives me directiuons to the Youth Hostel, which turns out to be just off the cycle path. At 35 Euros I opt for the campsite - tightarse that I am. I get the tent sorted and grab lunch then head into town to explore.

Turns out Saturday is market day - the place is carnage! Many of the streets are closed to traffic and filled with stalls selling all manner of goods. I wander round for some time but a market is no place for me and my penny pinching ways. I head for the Tourist info Office, get my bearings and then explore with purpose, stopping at an internet cafe to do some updating. I head to a bar for beer that is very like Hoegaarden. The square I'm in is filled with bars and restaurants, I figure I'm far enough away from the tourist trap of the Cathedral to not get ripped off and so I have my first hot meal in days! I write my journel with warm food and cold beer - delish!

Distance 70km

I have a sightseeing day as Strasbourg has plenty to see. The architecture is brilliant, and I spend the day getting lost down tiny alley ways searching out the good places to eat etc. I spend ages in the interent cafe until my head feels like its wants to explode then go coffee and cake hunting. I detect I slight apprenhension about going to Germany, I think I'm just starting to get comfortable in France. But then, the purpose of this trip is not to be comfortable and confidant in my surroundings, infact it's pretty much the opposite. I find a cheap pizza place and head back to camp for an early night. Germany beckons me forth....

Distance 11km (sightseeing)

Sunday, 25 July 2010

France Continued...

The £6 hotel breakfast was pretty tame. I've decided to hunt down the person that invented those tiny cereal boxes and beat them to death with a full sized cereal box. I cleared out of the hotel at 10ish, had an unsuccessful poke around for a French phrasebook but did manage to pick up a map. It has a scale of 1:200,000 which is much more suitable for my kind of trip as it shows ALL the roads. Now confidant that I could find may way around the paced eased a little - if it becomes much more sedate I wont be leaving France. I got distracted the budget grub from a Lidl, which seem to be as common as the damn "Golden Arches". Though it pains me to set foot inside, McD's is a guaranteed water stop.

Out of the city in the right - direction for a change, the roads straighten up. People seem happy it's Friday as I'm getting more than the usual number of toots/waves. A guy pulls up on the other side of the road and runs over to say 'Hello'. He spoke no English but from what I gather he has built his own bicycle trailer and is fascinated by mine. He's impressed that I have cycled from England. I tell him I'm heading for Bulgaria via the Danube - which is true. I feel a fraud saying I intend to cycle to India, it seems so unrealistic. In my mind be fore the trip I pictured myself breezing throught Europe and on into the Middle East. Turns out it's much easier crossing Continents tucked away behind my laptop!! Who knew!?

The road to Avesnes-sur-Helpe was poker straight, I took a picture of it. The section in the picture seem to go on forever, much like the stereotypical pictures of roads in the US. It turned out to be about 4.6Km. With plenty of time on my hands I calculated it to be approximately 1/2600 of my total distance...bugger!

I cruise downhill for ages and pause at the bottom for a "biscuit stop", thinking the extra calories may come in handy for the seemingly endless hill I now have to climb. I consider checking my map but swiftly reject the idea. Knowing full well it isn't going to offer an alternative route via babbling streams and radiant poppyfields with naked Sweedish girls riding horses....and thus I climb the hill.
A while later I come across a campsite sign, and after getting some directions - which amazingly, I understand, I arrive at the site. I eat, fiddle with the bike, stare at my maps and go check out the toilets and showers. I chuckle to myself as I imagine bringing some of my friends to such a place.

"What the fuck do I do with this!?"


"I'm not touching my arse with that, I need quilted goddamnit, quilted!!"

It's the trough style which requires squatting over and cleaning is done with the hand... My own immediate thought is "sweet, I dont have to dig my own". I take a shower and make a mental note to be better with the suncream - feeling a little 'crispy'.

Distance: 69 Dudes!!

Having found a super cheap camp site I decide to take a rest day to allow my body some recovery time. I spend the morning chilling/snoozing and fiddle with the bike again. I have been getting stuck into Jack London and enjoying it quite alot. I go to the bar in the village thinkning it would be good to meet some locals and perhaps practice my French. I write my journel in the bar while drinking strong Grimbergen, which is like the Dark Leffe. The locals are most friendly. When people leave or enter the bar everyone is greeted individually with a handshake or a kiss - much the way we might at home. The greeting is extended to me and makes me feel welcome. A farther and little girl of 6 or so leave the bar, the little girl kissing everyone goodbye. I'm surprised at the affection/politeness shown to a stranger, a trait long gone back home thanks to media fuelled "paedo paranoia". The landlady helps me with my French and even gives me some tiny phrasebooks.

It's nearly closing time when the farther of the sweet little girl comes back to the bar for a few Whiskys. In between tears he talks with the Landlady for some time, I feel awkward and motion to leave. The bar is closed up and the man asks if I would like to go back to his for a beer. He speaks some English, his name is Franko and he's 52, he has many piercings and most of his body is decorated with tattoos. We drink warm Leffe while he tells me about his wife taking his daughter away. The conversatoin moves on and he shows me the certificates and trophies he's won for his body art. He shows me his portpholio. Flicking through, the first few pages are filled with his designs, some of which are quite impressive and very intricate, though as the book progress's more and more of the designs feature the Swastika. I turn the page hoping things dont get worse...they do. Photographs of him wearing nothing but the most meagre of thongs, in order to best display his body art. For some reason I keep turning the pages, like the horror move you cant help but watch. On this next page his attire is the same only now he's holding a gun in each hand - and I'm not reffering to his biceps! Another photo shows a "Chopper" esque pose with arms crossed over his chest hold two pistols. I continue page turning to pictures with a more S&M quality, half PVC clad heavily tattooed women are the focus of this page. One shows him wrapped head to toe in a kind of cling film suspended horizontally from a wooden A-Frame, he finds this one very amusing and tell me he looks like "un saucisson"

Yes Franko "propper sausage!!"

I inwardly sigh with releif as the pictures once again feature his designs. We drink more beer and the conversation moves forth. He asks me if I'd like to hold his Python, foolishly I say "yes" before considering the possible implications of what might follow. Another sigh of relief as he reaches to a glass tank behind me rather than toward the zipper of his pink denim shorts. It's a beautiful animal, about 5/6ft in lenght, I can't really tell with wrapped around my arm, it's alot heavier than I expect. I'm not a huge fan of caging/domesticating such animals. But as I'm the guest, and he is the tattoo clad, thong wearing, gun toting neo-nazi...I decide not to bring it up...

We continue to talk while he finishes his bottle of Whisky. He becomes quite upset once more and decides we shall smoke a joint and then he shall shoot himself, being abit of an emotional retard myself I dont feel fully equipped to deal with our dilemma. None the less we continue talking his emotional state subsides. We go outside and meet his neighbour. Floro is 22 and designs and makes his own clothes, he is sporting the baggiest set of "baggies" I have ever seen!! I figure the quiet village is an odd place for a 22 year old, but hey, I live in a tiny tent what do I know!?

They want to come and check out my "rig" so we make towards the campsite, but the owner wont let them in the site and would like very much for me to go to bed. I dont protest too much as it's getting late and I've a reasonable amount of drama for one night. I bid Franko and Floro goodnight, amazing the night ends without great incident. Franko asks that I wont forget him and gives me a tiny lizard carved from horse bone by his Polynesian farther.

"Somehow Franko, I don't think I'll forget"

Distance: 5km

Rest day done I hit the road once more, and have possibly my best days cycling yet. My route the the Ardennes was magic, I hoped for a campsite to come along so I could justify stopping, but it didn't. Never before have I experinced air with such green freshness, I fill my lungs best I can to make the lost of it. I ride through the pretty Belgian towns of Chimay and Couvin, I take the cliché pics of me by the boarder signs. Done many times before I know - but not by me okay! There's a motorcycle race on in Couvin and bikes are everywhere in many shapes and sizes. I have a pang of jealous as I miss the noise and the speed, but spitefully conclude that I get fitter as they get fatter. Also the planet appreciates my choice of transport for sure. I meet my first fellow touring cyclist, he's 62 and doing a tour of France, already 4000km down I'm impressed and very jealous! He's making his way to Strasbourg so we may meet again. He stops at a campsite, I consider stopping too but while 5 or so hours of daylight I press on a while longer. Dropping into a valley I hit my new top speed 61kph or 38mph (for you Joe), I pay for it going up the other side mind. The drivers are very courtious I often get waves toots and shouts of encouragment when slogging up the hills which fails to get me pushing the pedals that bit harder. I find a little campsite by the river in Monthermé. A french couple and their 6 year old daughter are doingg a cycle tour from Charleville to Belgium, great to be starting so young!! I speak to Mum and Jess aas I sit by the river and then catch some luch needed Z's.

Distance: 81km

I make Charleville in quick time as the French family point me in the direction of the nice flat river route. If the danube is anything like this I'm in for a treat! It's a pretty town with a grand central square, I sit by the fountain and take 5. I can't find any interent so dont linger too long. I do stop by a patisserie - it's becoming abit of a habit! I sample a Compolo, a speciality of this particular bakery and is hands down the best cake I've ever hand!! My cake/pudding vocabulary is far too inadequate to descirbe it's greatness, but put Charleville on your holiday list if your a cake fan!! I get another 30k under my belt and stop at an Aldi to stock up and lunch. Sitting on the floor in the carpark tucking into my jam sarnies I get some odd glances and chuckles. If there is one advantage to riding along with your underpants drying in the wind it is that you deveople no shame. Anyway, next time you see a scruffy fellow sitting on the floor outside your local supermarket say "hello", you may just make his lunch break. Better yet take him home for dinner and a night on your sofa - he's probably in need of some fresh vegetables and a good nights sleep (much like myself). You never know, it might be me on the return leg of this very journey! I sit by the canal to write my journel and eat my tea - a big tin of fruit salad for some much needed vitamins and E numbers.

Distance: 85km

Do great drama today. 27°C cloudless sky, my "panda eyes" are coming along nicely thanks to constant sunglasses. I stop in Verdun to find some internet and update the blog. It takes me forever, I hope it's something I get quicker at, as I'd like to make it better but for now just updating take quite along time. Verdun is another pretty town with the most amazing Mango flavoured ice-cream! I fail miserably at finding the youth hostel so head out of town in the direction of a campsite I spotted on my map. The campsite doesn't materialize "thanks Michelin for your peice of shit map". I consider stopping at a picnic area but it's very exposed and theres a good two hours of daylight left. I have a "wild poo", eat my dinner and push on feeling quite tired. I'm rewarded for my efforts with some easy downhill cruising in gorgeous golden evening glow. Scouring the landscape for suitable camping spots returns very little - not much cover to slip behind, or dense greenery in which I would have no hope of pitching a tent. A random campsite sign appears so I head in that direction - I seem to be copping out of wild camping more and more at the moment. The lure of a shower is too much too resist, definately the luxury I'm struggling with most! It's a really quiet site, I chat briefly with a couple of Dutch touring cyclists. darkness comes and I head for bed. Over the road there's a loan bull in a field with a bell around its neck. It's drives me mad and I've only been listening to it for a few hours - can't imagine how the bull feels!! I wonder if the farmer is blind, why else would a bell be required for one bull!!? I cant find my earplugs so dont get the best night sleep...


Distance: 78km

I manage to get on the road abit earlier today 10:00, I time it well as the local Patisserie van arrives just as I'm leaving. I snatch a cheeky Pan au Chocolat for some extra va-va-voom, because it would be rude not to! Seems to do the trick as I break my top speed record with a 66kph on the speedo. The lanscape is flattening out abit and with a slight tailwind I'm getting through the K's abit quicker. I have a nightmare getting through the City of Metz which is clearly not well equipped for bicycle travel. I make a deal with myself that I will lunch once out of the city, this is foolish and only serves to deepen my mood. Those that know me well have all seen the sulk that swiftly follows and empty stomach. Jess knows it so well I often get "James! Are you hungry!?" hahaha - what a child I am. Another victory for Michelin as the labeled campsite does not appear. I'm now getting used to the concept that if I push on, one always seems to turn up.

Distance: 130km

Rest day. Little too mention. Oh two weeks in today!! yipee - still going!!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Ride on the Right

Up earlier than normal - 7:30, as I want to make Dover in good time. The climb out of the campsite is brutal, I'm enjoying them more each day! I stop off at the Battle of Britain War Memorial, I have the place to myself as its a grim rainy grey morn. There are two replica Spitfires and a stone statue of a pilot gazing out across the Channel. A marble wall contains over 3000 names of men who lost their lives during the battle from July - Sept 1940. I read about a pilot who's plane went down not far from the memorial site during a coastal patrol, he was 24!! Makes me feel very lucky to have such an oppotunity, I hope I can recall this when I'm having a strop and considering jacking it all in!

I get to Dover, stock up my food supplies, send some postcards and head to the ferry terminal - smilling all the way. I enquire about the cost and am pleased to find it's 14 pounds. It's all very new and exciting, my trailer and I attract plenty of dodgey looks. I strap up the bike and make my way to top deck for my last views of the white cliffs. I laugh out loud at my own stupidity - turns out I'm on the ferry to Boulonge. Oh well, adventure starts here! I check my map and realise my boob is only a minor one.

I make my way out of town in a general Eastish direction. My first taste of French countryside, I like it! I haven't seen anyone for miles, tired old farmhouses turn up every now and then, but no-one seems to be around. Find a camp spot by a small reservoir, it's nearly dark so I get set up. I listen to firework from 10 till 11, obviously not as far from civilization as I thought!

Distance 74 km

Tough day today, heavy rain & tunder storms made for less than ideal conditions. I start getting frustrated with not knowing where I am, my map is not nearly detailed enough so I'm pretty much folowing my compass. All hotels I saw were closed - not that I intended to take one but I wondered if the campsites would be the same. I meander through towns trying to find some quiet countryside. Town after town after town, 'FUCKING MAP!!' I shout at the inanimate object - think I'm getting hungry too...

I find no fields despite my extra hours in the saddle and so opt for a industrial estate. It's pretty quiet, and there are plenty on grass verges to pitch up. I head to the bottom of a culdesac, pick a spot with the lowest density of empty vodka bottles/used condoms and make camp. Various chavs in various hot-hatches cruise past until the early hours, a cheeky burnout then zoom off. I felt surprisingly threatened by it all, expecting them to come a harass me etc. Perhaps the tent added to ly feeling of vunerability. Not the best nights sleep...

Distence 138km

Harldy a killer day, directional nightmare, I'm coming to terms with the concept that I wont be putting in 100+ mile days. Felt my first tail-wind today pushing me on down the road - felt good! I'm looking forard to more of them! Felt better on the bike today after my sulking day yesterday. Feel like I'll need to 'man up' if I'm to make it all the way. I made some rules for myself today, I wonder if they will stick, perhpas I'll make more of them. So far we have:

  • No pushing EVER
  • No lifts
  • No looking for somewhere to sleep pre-lunch
I find my way into Lille, and as I'm in need of a wash, particularly if I want to go explore the town, I cop out and get a cheap hotel - WIMP!! I find a nice bar with good beer and get some food. I'm irritated that I feel so much better now I've indulged, suprising what a roof a wash and a meal can do! I write my journel and chat with the waiter - who lived in Yorkshire for a year.

Distance 68km

Note: I've noticed in my journel that I'm mixing my tenses rather alot, I dont have time to re-read or spellcheck my blog entries so apologies if they're hard going!!


Tuesday, 20 July 2010


Day 1

Quiet goodbye with Mum, Jess and my Auntie present. I left a water bottle at Jess' so stopped by on the way out of Stafford to pick it up. Upon getting there I realise I've taken Mum's car keys with me - nice one! Say goodbye to Jess' sister and Dad also. I thought I may be able to leave Jess with some articulate romantic words to make the parting easier for us both but for fear of becoming a blubbering mess I settle for hugs and kisses.

I ride out through Cannock Chase, somewhere I very fond of. Puncture 22 miles in - good start!! Lunch in Tamworth is bread and jam, best be getting used to that. I stop at a pub near Lutterworth at 18.00 for a lemonade that tastes SOOOOOO good!! My legs feel pretty jelly'd I push on down to Towcester and start looking for soomewhere to sleep. My first wild camping experience, yey! I pull off the road into a field just before dark. I set up my tent, bread and jam for tea, bed.

Distance for day 1: 135km

I'm pleased, but know I should be taking it easier. Dont want the knees to give in a few weeks down the line...

Day 2

Blast on down to London. Friends Chris & Kath kindly offered to put me up for the night in their flat in London. Not only that but they invite me along to the Royal Albert Hall to a swing and Jazz night. I had to borrow some threads from Chris as stinky shorts/shirt had, to my surprise, been omitted from the dress code. It was a great night and epic contrast to the previous evening spent hiding alone in a farmers field.

Distance for day 2: 105km

Day 3 is a lazy day. My body feels slightly abused from the previous two days, aswell it might. I head south-east out of London. I actually really enjoyed the ride around London. Regents park was packed with people playing football/frisbee. It was downhill all the way to the Thames. I took some quick snaps of Big Ben etc etc and made my way out of town. I quite enjoyed riding through all the traffic, as a child I bizarrely wanted to be a courrier. After a while the sun heating me from above and exhaust fumes choking/heating me from below I was glad to get out of town. I find a cheap campsite in Kent after a wimpish 56km. I get myself set up, grab tea and a much needed shower.
A guy wonders as my bizzare contraption catches his eye - my Bob Yak trailer is not some something many folks see all that often. His name is Bruce, he has a permanent van on the site. Only 30 mins drive away it's his escape from the 'Big Smoke'. We get on well, he offers me cold beer and food - good times! We spend the evening putting the world to rights as stars come out over Kent. Bed.

Distance 56km

I see the sea!!

So I'm following the A20 on route to the South Coast as per my map. The two lane duel carriage-way becomes three lanes as we go up a hill, no bother I'm thinking 'its for the slow traffic'. I crest the rise and the three lanes continue. I check my map, all is well, the motorway isn't for 4 miles yet. I continue for a while until the 'toots' from cars become a little too consistant for my liking, I am infact cycling down the M20 - sweet!!

I find my escape route and plough on down to Hythe. I fly down the hill into town and head straight for the prom'. Park up the bike and go to dip my toes in the Channel. 'I might actually make it to France' is all I can think. I dont move for half an hour, just sit there staring at the sea. I cycle down the prom' all the way to Folkstone, it's a great little ride. I find a cheap campsite as I need to wash some clothes, which I do so in the shower. I head down to the beach for the evening to practice some guitar and finish my book.

Distance 96km

I take the next day as a rest day. Wandering along the beach, more reading, resting the arse etc.
I meet Thomas on the campsite and we get chatting. He is from Denmark but is here on holiday with his wife and 3 children. He invites me for dinner with his family, sadly I missed it as I was showering but joined them for coffee and some tastey snacks. They put the children to bed and I take my leave, France tomorrow....

Apologies for the rushedness today & the typos, just trying to get upto speed. Will try and get another update soon.

Until next time, Adu.

The beginning


So, I'm afraid I haven't had much luck with internet access so I may not be able to update as often as I'd like. I'll be playing a constant catch up, so whats on here may be abit delayed.

The beginning......

My phone instructs me that I have 5h37m until my alarm. I feel ready to go, even convinced myself that I've packed, yet some how there's a trail of clutter around the house. Random bungee chord, list of "to die for" albums I've yet to download - crucial stuff obviously!

I try to think of a list of emails to send my blog to but my mind is elsewhere; mainly on not emptying the contents of my bowels into the only pair of padded cycling shorts I'm taking with me. After two months or so of strict training - beer and predominantly vegetarian BBQ's and more recently, sleeping in until 10am my body feels fully prepared for anything this planet can throw at it, hmmmm.
I've loaded my ipod with music, poetry, speaches and stories in the hope that I can distract myself during hours that would otherwise be spent absorbed in idle introspection.

4h53m and still sleep doth protest...

Saturday, 10 July 2010


Welcome dudes,

So, for as long as I can remember, I've had this nagging feeling that I need to go and see some of the world. Discover my adventurous spirit that has lain dormant for too long etc. etc... I've told friends for a few years that "this is the year" or "next year, that's when I'll do it", to the extent that they probably thought I'd never leave - I'm not sure I did. I started to wonder if maybe I'm just the 'ideas guy', rather than 'the guy that follows through' haha ( yes I'm afraid this blog will be littered with childish humour)

Now in my 24th year, the opportunity has come up and I intend to take it. Actually, I think it's more appropriate to say I made the opportunity, because things like this don't really fit in all too well. Life sort of, gets in the way. There is always other stuff going on, pesky things like careers, mortgage payments, witness protection programs you get the idea...

So, I spent the last two months building up a bicycle - hopefully one worthy of crossing continents! Gathering a bundle of savings, sadly I'm still owed a chunk, having pestered the company for months with little or no return I've decided to go anyway. I've also gathered up various bits of kit for the trip. The usual camping gear/clothing and some cheeky luxury items - ipod, Digital SLR, Acoustic Travel Guitar.

My route is some what vague, and almost certain to change but here's an idea

The bicycle is probably my favourite form of transport, incredibly efficient, good for my body and spirit, and particularly kind to the environment. I hope that through this blog I can promote the use of bicycles for transport, perhaps even encourage some readers to ditch their car, and take the bike to work! I think it's a great tool for traveling, moving at 12mph gives quite unique perspective, smells and sounds that would go un-noticed if I were whizzing by in my metal box.

I intend this to be a "warts and all" account of my trip. The main purpose being for friends and family to keep up with where I am/what I'm upto. I'm no writer, my speeling g'rammer are shit - and I'm partial to some swearing, so I'll say sorry now and be done with it : ) I will also be writing a more comprehsive paper journal as I go, then I'll upload snip-its with photos as and when I find cyber cafes.

If I haven't already done so in person, then I'll take this opportunity to invite you along for a holiday with a difference - perhaps you've yet to decide on a destination this year, or are looking for an excuse to get away. I already have folks intent on joining me for various stages - but there's always room for more!! If not then please join me vicariously through this blog...

Do let me know what you think, either through comments or my email (below). Feel free to email me with any news or "goss" from home, it will be great to hear from you. Your welcome to pass a link for this blog onto anyone that shows an interest or may find it useful, the more the merrier!

See you on the road...