Saturday, 8 October 2011

Thank You

Now that we have finished our 18,000km bicycle tour and basked in the glory of our achievement for the past few weeks, it’s time to admit that we never could have done it without the many kind souls who helped us out along the way. ||

While we planned our trip, we read many inspiring blogs and books and contacted several experienced cyclists for advice. Special mentions go to Anne Mustoe’s book A Bike Ride, which was our first inspiration for cycle touring, and Alastair Humphrey’s brilliant books about his round-the-world cycle tour.

Al Humphreys also organised a pub night in London where we met other cycle tourers - Friedel and Andrew from TravellingTwo, who had already helped us out with lots of advice before our meet-up and have since published a Bike Touring Survival Guide that is packed full of useful tips and information. We also met Justin and Emma from Rolling Tales, who were about to embark on their own journey to New Zealand and who we later met again in Turkey, and Di who we ended up cycling with from Budapest to Istanbul. Tara and Tyler from Going Slowly answered our many pre departure questions via Skype from their tent in Romania and we had the pleasure of catching up with them in Bangkok. Many other blogs provided inspiration as well as practical advice and helped us gain the courage to embark on our own journey.

On our first day leaving London our friends Gerry and Dom cycled out with us. That night we were offered a bed by Andrea in Dartford via the Warmshowers website, making for a great start to our journey. During our tour we were hosted by many other people who invited us into their homes: Catherine & Mathieu in Metz, Charlotte in Strasbourg, Sandra & Alex in Böblingen, Jürgen in Vienna, Ulas in Turkey, Hossein & Sohra in Iran, Mahmud & Mahdie in Iran, Ahmad and his family in Iran, Melanie in Abu Dhabi, Chuen and his mum in Singapore, Ruth & Glen in Darwin, Paul & Jenny in Adelaide, John & Rachel near Timboon, Peter & Corinne in Wye River and Tony & Pam in Fairhaven on the last night of our tour.

Countless people helped us along the way by stopping for a chat, giving us directions, presenting us with food or drinks, waving or giving us the the thumbs up, buying us a meal or inviting us to into their homes, letting us camp in their garden, taking us on tours of their local area or even doing water drops for us in the Australian Outback. There are too many to name, but you know who you are and we will always remember your acts of kindness.

Along the way, some of our friends and family came out to visit us. It was great to see familiar faces en route. Gudrun came to meet us in Ulm, Freddie’s parents, sister and brother-in-law visited us in Vienna, Tony showed us around Budapest, Janna & Marco and Gerry came out to Istanbul, Abhishek & Priya and Amol introduced us to Mumbai, Nick & Aom met us in Bangkok and Nick spent a week cycling with us in Thailand, we met up with Beng near Kuala Lumpur, Tze-Ern and Ben took us out for a meal in Singapore and Guy’s sister Justine visited us in Adelaide. The prize for the most visits however goes to Freddie’s dad, Gerhard, who came out to see us 3 times – in Vienna, Istanbul and Dubai. Each time he carried a parcel full of spare parts, hand delivered from Germany, as well as sponsoring us some treats along the way.

A special thank you goes to everyone who has made a donation to SOS Children’s Villages to sponsor our ride, and to the charity itself who invited us to visit one of their villages in Kerala, India.

When planning our tour, we made sure that our gear was high quality, durable and light weight. The companies supplying our gear have for the most part been extremely helpful when something did go wrong. Icebreaker replaced a worn T-Shirt for free, Ortlieb sent us replacement clips for our panniers, Thermarest sent us two (!) new sleeping mats (the original one had delaminated and the first replacement was lost in the mail), General Ecology sponsored us a new First Need water filter cartridge, and Bikesportz sponsored us new Panaracer tyres.

A huge thank you to the crew at SJS who supplied us with our Thorn Raven bicycles which have served us loyally for over 23,000km without any major issues, not even a broken spoke. They were the most important kit item and they never let us down and certainly the upgrades to double walled rims, thick spokes and Rohloff hub were integral in this.

Our families have been extremely patient and supportive. Despite the fact that they sometimes worried about us, they never complained about our extended tour and always tried to act as if it was normal that we’d call them up from a phone booth in Iran announcing we’d be out of touch for the next 8 days as we were about to cross a desert.

Finally, we have really enjoyed writing this blog and connecting with people through our website, Twitter and more recently Facebook. We still get pretty excited when we receive a message or comment, and the encouragement of our readers has seen us through some tough times. Twitter in particular has allowed us to hook up with many interesting people along the way who were on their own extended cycle tours.

We hope that we were able to pass on some useful information and learnings to people planning their own tour to close the loop and give back what we received when we first started out.


Sunday, 2 October 2011

How It All Started

"The object of life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely, in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out shouting holy shit, what a ride" - Mavis Leyrer

A few people have asked us how we came up with the idea of cycling to Australia.

We were both regular cyclists during our younger years but never did anything extreme. When travelling in Cambodia in 2003 we hired some bicycles to explore the ruins of Angkor Wat for a few days. This gave us our first taste of bicycle travel in a foreign land. We were instantly taken by the freedom: we could go anywhere we pleased and we found the local kids got a real buzz out of a couple of foreigners on bikes, it helped bridge the divide.||

Still we never thought about doing serious bicycle travel; we assumed that was reserved for the super fit. That was until Guy read a book by an elderly English lady called Anne Mustoe. She couldn't repair a puncture, wasn't into sports, didn't even like camping but she cycled around the world, twice!

The more he thought about it the more Guy loved the idea of cycling from the UK to Australia. After all, we had seen these intriguing lands many times from the perspective of an aeroplane and it must be much more exciting to explore them on a bicycle. Freddie was not so sure, it was a long way and we had never cycled for two consecutive days let alone half way around the world.

To try to convince Freddie that cycling to Oz was a sensible thing to do we tested ourselves in an area that would challenge us and test our resolve to the utmost: Provence, in southern France.

After a week of swanning around sun drenched vineyards and staying in cosy B&B's Freddie declared she was ready for the world of cycle touring.

We started to make preparations for the trip, drew lines on maps, spent hours at book shops reading up on travel guides and purchased items we never knew existed like a Spondonicle and a Spork. Our first real, put your money where your mouth is moment was when we purchased our touring bikes. We had always had second hand bikes before and though they were the bee's knees, that was until we felt the ride on our brand new beautiful Thorn Raven touring bikes.

We couldn't wait for them to be delivered so we travelled for half a day to go pick them up. We cycled 180km back home over three days in pouring rain following muddy canal paths, and we loved it. Sure the cycling was miserable but we really felt the joy of being out in the open country and travelling at a pace where we could see the detail in the world around us.

As the deliveries trickled in and our little London flat began to resemble an outdoor shop we thought we should perhaps challenge ourselves and see if we could hack more than a week on the road.

Having lived in the UK we thought a trip from Lands End in the south to John O’Groats in the North was the way to go. So we booked off the holiday time and set about our first real biking challenge. It hurt, the days were long, we barely stopped, the scenary was beautiful but we had little time to appreciate it. We completed the ride but it nearly killed us, we were out of our comfort zone too often. Touring on a tight schedule was not for us. We liked to get up late and have a lazy breakfast. We liked to talk to the farmers in the fields or assist a wayward caterpillar in crossing the road. We weren't in it for just a challenge. We were in it for the way of life, the adventure, and the discoveries along the way.

Understanding this enabled us to devise a ride back home that factored in plenty of time with manageable daily distances. As the day approached we couldn't really comprehend what we were about to do. We fluctuated between bouts of optimism to serious doubts and sleepless nights. Nonetheless we had let word slip about our adventure and we weren't brave enough now to pull out. So we got on our bikes and started pedalling our way to Australia and along the way had the most incredible experience of our lives...