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...

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