And the Big Bonkers Bicycle Bonanza
Sonya and Nigel
And the Big Bonkers Bicycle Bonanza!
We are 2 kiwis leaving London and embarking on a long and meandering ride home. It is more than 12 000 miles! We are not athletes, just ordinary people who like to pass through countries rather than passing over them, meeting the people, experiencing the nature and the life. We will travel by bicycle, boat, and train. We hope to make it at least half way without taking a plane.
Some background from Nigel
If asked I'd find it hard to pin point how my interest in cycling began. It certainly wouldn't have been my first cycling memory, as a five year old getting my little toe skinned in the back spokes of my brothers Raleigh sixteen.
It probably goes back to when I was about eleven and the rides I used to take with friends. I lived in Cromwell, Central Otago, at the conference of untamed Clutha and Kawarau rivers. Our house was the old convent just above dead mans point. That was the spot where a hundred years earlier a cable had been strung across the Clutha, the last slim chance of saviour for numerous unfortunate gold panners swept off their feet upstream.
Cromwell sits between the old man and sugar loaf ranges. Once on the bed of a huge inland sea, it had a moon like landscape and was practically silent, you could hear a dog bark at the other end of town. It sat amongst an expanse of wasteland from the gold rush diggings of the 1840's, the hills dotted with old panners stone cottages, neglected through time like the sun bleached shells of 1920's cars parked in adjacent paddocks.
Around this time I made what I guess I could claim to be my first tour. It was with my cousin Ian, we rode 16 Kilometres to Sandy Kings, a local trout fishing and swimming hole where we set up our tent and camped and fished for a few days. We survived on chicken sandwiches until the chicken went green and we were easily out witted by the big old rainbow trout we could see in the water.
A couple of years later for my birthday I got a brand new ten speed bike. I trained hard and went on my first proper tour of seven days with my older brother Ray. We rode over the steep and rough terrain of the Nelson lakes district in the peak of the summer heat. We were even caught in a flash flood when we had naively camped on a small island on the Pelorus river. Still, I knew then that that was the way to travel for me. I managed a few short tours but it was almost twenty years before I had the opportunity to do some real exploring.
In December 1999 I flew to England to go travelling with my (then) girlfriend Sonya.
Our trip started in a fairly ramshackle way with a short flight from London to Malaga (Spain) just in time to spend Christmas in a bleak and wintery Torremolinos.
I had advised Sonya with the full authority of optimistic naivety (unfortunately I could hardly blame youth as I was 32 years old) that we would be catching trains to our days destination then using our bikes to get to campsites or for doing pleasant day trips. We soon found out to our shock and Sonya's dismay that the sparking Andalucian train that pulled up to the Torremolenos station did not take bikes and we would have to find some other means of reaching our destination.
Out onto the south coast highway we rode (two weeks later deemed a Motorway). Motorcycles went past at what I guess was over a hundred mile an hour and we read horror stories of a group of cyclists recently killed at an on ramp nearby. Still somehow we made it to Gibraltar and Algeciras where we caught the ferry to Tangier (Morrocco)
We planned to head south for the winter and ride for as long as the 2000 quid each had would last.
The 2000 each had lasted 210 days and we had cycled around 4600 miles around Morocco, Mediterranean and central Europe. We had spent a third of our nights staying in hotels another third wild camping or with people we had met along the way and the other third in camping grounds.
We went home for the rest of the year and were married the following year in New Plymouth by my brother in law Dave Chadfield (Happy Chaddy) and had our reception in my sister Kathleen's restaurant.
In 2001 we returned to England with the intention of making some money and going travelling before going home a couple of years later. I would never have imagined London could be such a desirable place to live.
We have finally decided to go home to New Zealand. It's hard to imagine it as home after being away for so long. The town we are returning to (New Plymouth) I haven't lived in for fourteen years and Sonya although born there has never really lived there at all.
Starting in mid April in about three weeks time we plan to cycle for around seven and a half months, riding the paths alongside the rivers and canals of western Europe while we get fit then crossing into Switzerland and ride the undulating terrain in southern Germany & Austria then following the greenways path through Czech Republic and Poland eventually taking us up to St Petersburg. From here we will catch a train to Moscow, another to Lake Baikal, then we'll ride to Ulaan Bataar in Mongolia before catching a train to Beijing, From here we aren't sure but we hope to end up in Bangkok probably going via Vietnam and Cambodia.
We should be home for Christmas. I will probably be celebrating have my fortieth birthday somewhere in China or Vietnam. We plan to start riding in about three weeks time on the 15th of April 2007.
This story will tell of our trials and tribulations of our day to day riding.
London 22nd March
Today's ride to work was through icy sleet. I find it hard to believe that last week it was 19 degrees Celsius. For the past couple of months I have been riding my bike six miles to work and back each day and Sonya has been going to the Gym. We have done a few weekend rides on unloaded bikes but otherwise we are not particularly fit.
Health wise we have spent a small fortune on every conceivable inoculation and pill to ward off Rabies, Tick borne encephalitis, Japanese B encephalitis, typhoid, malaria and a host of others.
In preparation we have fitted front low rider racks and purchased panniers to match.
We have purchased just about every conceivable piece of technology in order to make us more self sufficient and using a 12watt solar panel I can charge up the Garmin Quest GPS, two mobile phones, the PD170 video camera, The Nikon D70 still camera, but unfortunately not the Vaio T140 notebook.