The expedition timer on the front page of the site now shows nearly 9.5 days from the moment I splashed my way under Tower Bridge on April 1st. Since then I have travelled through four countries and I am now (as of this morning) into my fifth. I’m pretty happy with that for progress.
Time to go home
After the paddling marathon down the Thames and across the Channel to France I swapped Nelson (my kayak) for Hercules (my bike) and began pedalling my way East. I was trailed by three of my team (Logistics Chief Tim, Camera Chief Justine and my good mate Claire) through France and across Belgium until Friday morning. They used our Saab support vehicle for the most part and took it in turns to pedal with me.
As Friday morning approached I anticipated the farewells with a sense of foreboding – I had enjoyed having the team along, cycling with me, filming me and generally making sure all was going to plan. And so it was with a lump in my throat and slightly heavy heart that I hugged them all, climbed onto my bike and turned away from the car to pedal off on my own. Eastbound, en route to the world.
I looked back a couple of times before the road bent round to the right, wondering if my friend Claire had succumbed to the tears yet – she was nearly there as we hugged cheerio. They were all there still, watching and waiting for me to go. Justine had a video camera on me and Tim seemed to be clicking with a camera while Claire stood by the car door and stared after me.
Two more corners and I looked behind once more – I couldn’t see them and they couldn’t see me. I had gone and they were now going home too. It was just Hercules and me now: us and the road. Also going home, just by a more round-about route. I had a note from Justine to say that they made it home on Friday night; I hope I don’t get home until 2013.
The kindness of strangers
Meanwhile, I am now in Germany, having pedalled out of cycling mad Belgium and across the beautifully flat and fast Nederlands yesterday, before crossing the border at dawn this morning. I would have come over last night but I was befriended by a lovely Dutch lady, Mieke, who welcomed me home for the night. In my head I had wanted to pedal further and squeeze in a few more miles, but her smiling warmth and motherly kindness meant that I couldn’t refuse. We shared a beer in a little plaza as the sun went down, bikes and cyclists everywhere, before pedalling together back the way I had come from into the woods to her house. From one woman cyclist to another, we shared tales of adventure over the blackberry whiskey that Claire had given me for this very purpose.
So I needn’t have worried about saying goodbye to my team on Friday – I haven’t been alone since and I don’t think I ever shall be on this journey round the world. Or at least on the land at any rate! I have already had lots of people cycle alongside me – both in person – strangers I have met along the way – and in spirit – all the friends and families and sponsors and well wishers who have joined the journey too.
These have been a happy few days indeed. Thankfully the lack of hills until Germany has eased my legs in fairly gently (though I have put in a couple of 150km days already) and the sunshine which arrived on Day 2 of the cycling leg has made it a joy to be out and about. Having spent so long planning to get L2L off the ground, it is so exciting to be on my way, travelling slowly enough to spot wildlife and meet people without letting the world pass me by.
Here’s to the world ahead.
All best from me and Hercules,
PS In terms of mileage – I guessed at 65 miles a day before I came away. The first couple of days were much shorter and the last couple have been much longer. The main focus is to head East and stay happy, while making the country borders in good time for my visas.
PPS For those wondering why I have come North to Essen – I came up here to visit one of my sponsors, Ernst & Young – my lead contact is based here, so I came for lunch today.