Monthly Archives: March 2015

Tour prep progress

My route planning summed up by Alice and the Cheshire Cat

My route planning summed up by Alice and the Cheshire Cat

With around 40 days to go before I embark on my next adventure, I really need to get a wriggle on with completing the outstanding tasks on my to do list. It’s not like I’m not getting through them, but work keeps getting in the way – how very inconvenient of it. Although saying that we’re getting to the end of a 2 year project which is pretty satisfying; it’s very rewarding seeing something you’ve invested so much time and effort in go live successfully.

So far I’ve booked my flight to Norway, sorted out putting my house on the rental market, and ticked off quite a few items on my shopping list with regards to kit needed for 6 months on the road. The shopping bit has been a lot of fun, even if I do need to address my credit card bill sooner rather than later. I’ve got a few new gadgets to play with, as well as a new buff arriving in the post shortly; my old one was definitely getting a bit on the worn side, however it’s served me well, a fantastic piece of versatile apparel.

I’m also in the process of getting inoculated versus a wide range of horrible ailments such as Typhoid, Rabies, Tetanus, Polio, Hepatitis A & B , Diphtheria and MMR. This involves several visits to the travel clinic over the course of a few weeks,  which is leaving me with quite a few holes in my arms. Thankfully none of these injections appear to need to take place in the vicinity of my butt, or any other uncomfortable locations, as yet anyway; maybe the nurse is saving the ‘best’ till last.

As the above quote from Alice in Wonderland would suggest my route planning hasn’t progressed much as yet. I know where I’m starting from, and the key locations along the way, such as Nordkapp in Norway, Tarifa in Spain…and Istanbul…and several other countries and cities, however the exact route probably won’t be confirmed until I start properly. I prefer to make final route decisions as I go, so I’m not constrained by having to be somewhere by such and such a time. One of the wonderful things about cycle touring is you have everything you need, including your mode of transport, on your bike, especially if you’re happy to camp, so you’re pretty self sufficient and massively flexible, as long as you have the time spare.

Now I’ve got the big work project out of the way I can start to get properly excited about leaving. I’m really looking forward to hitting the road, seeing new places, and meeting new people. News stories seem to focus on everything that’s wrong with the world, and how scary a place it is, which I maintain really isn’t the case. Whilst it can be daunting setting off for new climes, and you do have to be careful wherever you are due to a small minority of people, the majority are kind, generous, friendly and welcoming, and interested in what you’re doing, even if they do think you’re a little crazy at times. I was reminded of this when watching the short film from Tom Allen and Leon McCarron on their trip to Iran, where they journeyed from the source of the Karun, Iran’s longest river, to the sea. You can watch a taster from this via the link below, and sign up for the newsletter to see the full 15 minutes:

Well worth a watch. They’ve also just launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to produce two feature length films on their expeditions to Iran, following the Karun, and Patagonia, following the Santa Cruz. Check it out here:

I know they’ll appreciate any and all support for what’s a fantastic project, they just need the funds to finish it. One of the reasons I’m supporting it, aside from the fact I love finding out about people’s adventures, is because films like this help counter what’s in the mainstream media about other countries and cultures and the threats they pose. People are always going to be slightly afraid of something that’s different, that I’m afraid is kinda genetic, however the more  positive stories we can spread on other cultures the better, to help stop that fear or ignorance turning into unfounded hatred and aggression.

One of the aims of my blog will continue to be to relate tales of human generosity, and to tell the stories from other cultures I experience. I hope this will also go some way to demonstrating people are basically the same the world over, with only a minority spoiling it for all. On the blog front I still haven’t settled on a new name, so I might end up just continuing to use this one, we’ll see, it’ll be one less thing to sort out!

I’m writing this at half past two in the morning because my  body clock is currently on night shift mode, and I can’t sleep, however I need to catch a train in 6 hours time so I suppose I ought to at least try and get some shut-eye. Bonuit world.

Ready to ride?

Ready to ride? The answer to that is probably ‘No’ at the moment. Whilst it would be relatively straight-forward to jump on my bike and head off for a week, getting ready to be away for 6 months is proving somewhat more of a challenge.

I am however making some good progress. The to-do list is starting to get shorter rather than longer, this week anyway, and I’ve almost booked my flight to Nordkapp; just some final details around getting my bike on the 3 aeroplanes it takes to get there to sort out. I’ve talked to an agent about renting my house out whilst I’m away, so the mortgage will take care of itself, providing they can find some tenants and I finish sprucing it up and throwing out accumulated junk. Work has approved my sabbatical request (hoorah), I’m getting my touring kit together, and the training is going just about adequately. All in all some good progress.

Trying to get loads of stuff done whilst continuing to do the day job is quite tricky, especially as we’re nearing the end of a big project at work. I mentioned my to do list is going down, however this will only continue as long as I don’t find more tasks to add to it. For example I realised just last week that I might need a few vaccinations for some of the countries I’m intending to visit, or at the very least a Tetanus booster, so I’ve made an appointment with the Travel Clinic. Not sure if I’ll need anything else, however a rabies jab might be a good idea given dogs like chasing bikes. One of the things I worry about is being chased and potentially bitten by dogs, especially in some of the more remote parts of Europe, North Africa and down into Turkey. I might see if I can invest in one of those sonic devices that’s supposed to scare dogs away, or failing that take a few squeaky toys I can throw as distractions!

I keep looking at the map below which I got off the EuroVelo website and dreaming about setting off. All the manic preparation will be worth it and I’ll be able to relax; life is so much simpler on the road.

The map gives a good overview of the countries I’ll be travelling through and the possible route, starting in Nordkapp at the northernmost point of Norway, then down into Finland, on to Sweden, then Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Spain. Once I reach Tarifa in Spain I might have a couple of weeks off and do some windsurfing, as well as nip over to Morocco for an explore, before continuing along the Mediterranean coast through France, northern Italy, Slovenia, then route to be confirmed to Istanbul. After that I’ll see. If I have time I’ll ride back to the UK alongside the Danube. If time is running short I’ll have to hop on a plane or ask work nicely to extend my sabbatical. Total distance should end up being around 10,000 miles or thereabouts, depending on my route which I intend to remain flexible on; for example I might end up going to Athens instead of Istanbul.

eurovelo-mapI ‘bumped into’ Andrew Sykes via Twitter the other day, who has just set off to Spain before starting his latest cycle tour pedaling from Tarifa to Nordkapp; same journey as me but the opposite direction. I’m looking forward to crossing paths with him, probably in Denmark somewhere, later this year. It’ll be good to swap notes on the route ahead. You can follow his progress via his blog here:

Back to outstanding tasks on my to do list. Got a few things I could do with some advice on. I want to invest in a laptop instead of taking my iPad with me on this tour. A laptop offers greater flexibility, and besides my iPad has never really been the same since it fell on the floor whilst I was using it to follow instructions to mend my car. I think I want an Apple laptop, which I can  use to do some basic video editing as well as blog and use the web; I’d like to post a few video blogs whilst touring, which’ll hopefully be quicker and a little different. Something not too expensive ideally. Any tips?

Other tasks include setting up a new blog as ‘Bike around Britain’ doesn’t really qualify for touring around Europe and beyond. I might just go with, or  jamesandthegiantworld.something, suggestions welcome. Travelling lobster is obviously biased…

Travelling lobster, clearly biased, but with some wise words.

Travelling lobster, clearly biased, but with some wise words.

I won’t bore you with the rest of my to do list, but needless to say there’s quite a bit on it, and I’ll be more than a little relieved once I get more tasks ticked off.

I forgot, the start of my tour isn’t really Nordkapp. I’m setting off from Norwich and travelling up to the Cycle Touring Festival in Lancashire first, which takes place from 01 to 03 May, then I’ll fly out from Manchester airport. Really looking forward to meeting like minded individuals, getting some advice for the road, and kicking off with a bang. It’ll be great to catch up with people like Tom Allen (, and Richard from Oxford Bike Works ( who put together the design for the bike I’m riding, as well as a host of other guests and speakers.

They’ve sold out of tickets this year but hopefully they’ll repeat the festival next year (

Final thoughts for this blog. I’ve been thinking a lot about life in the last couple of months, maybe because it’s just turned three years since Lucy passed away and a lot of things have come flooding back. It reminded me about how precious life is and how one should not waste it, or get overly trapped by the pressures of modern life. Sometimes it feels like I’m renting my life out to someone else, rather than breaking the mold and choosing my own path; making a change can be scary and it’s easier to conform to what is considered normal. The exercise I’m going through at the moment, preparing to go on on tour and de-cluttering my life, whilst a bit manic, is proving very therapeutic. I’m really looking forward to hitting the road knowing everything is sorted, with a fresh baseline to start from whenever I get home. Whenever I lose focus I think about Lu and what she used to tell me about striving to get the most out of life. Such a wonderful person and missed by all who knew her.

Lu - walking in a winter wonderland

Lu – walking in a winter wonderland

I think Lu would agree with Mr Rollins’ thoughts below, which struck me as fitting this week.

'All you got is life time' - Henry Rollins

‘All you got is life time’ – Henry Rollins