Saturday, 16 April 2011

Stats: Countries

GPS tracker log of the past 14 months

Eastbourne - London - Harwich
3 days, 148.1 miles

The Hague
3 days, 120.3 miles

Antwerp - Liege - Bruges
7 days, 177.5 miles

2 days, 110.9 miles

Metz - Nancy - Besançon
9 days, 428.2 miles

Geneva - Montreux - Sion - Simplon Pass
8 days, 206.6 miles

Domodossola - Lake Maggiore - Bergamo - Lake d'Iseo - Lake Como - Lake Garda - Bassano del Grappa - Trieste
9 days, 499.2 miles

1 day, 26.7 miles

Rijeka - Zadar - Split - Dubrovnik
9 days, 383.1 miles

1 day, 12 miles

Bay of Kotor
4 days, 130 miles

Shkodër - Tirana - Elbasan
5 days, 148.7 miles

Lake Ohrid - Bitola
6 days, 108.4 miles

Edessa - Thessaloniki - Alexandroupoli
5 days, 326.4 miles

Keşan - Istanbul - Ankara - Cappadocia - Kayseri - Kangal - Erzincan - Erzurum - Doğubeyazıt
39 days, 1373.8 miles

Tabriz - Zanjan - Qazvin - Tehran - Qom - Natanz - Esfahan - Meybod - Yazd
30 days, 1085.7 miles

Amritsar - McLeod Ganj - Manali - Mandi - Chandigarh - Panipat - Delhi
60 days, 652 miles

Hanoi - Halong Bay, Cat Ba Island - Ninh Binh - Huế - Da Nang - Hội An - Nha Trang - Mui Ne - Hồ Chí Minh City - Châu Đốc
57 days, 1420.9 miles

Phnom Penh - Siem Reap - Sisophon
21 days, 328.8 miles

Sa Kaeo - Nakhon Nayok - Bangkok - [Ko Chang]
36 days, 139.6 miles


Hong Kong
Kowloon - HK Island - Lamma Island
7 days

Shenzhen - Beijing - Tianjin - Xi'an - Huangshan - Hangzhou - Guangzhou
61 days

Kobe - Osaka - Kyoto - Nara - Tokyo - Hakata/Fukuoka
15 days

Busan - Gwangju - Seoul
7 days

[Cycling again]

Berlin - Dessau - Goslar - Aachen
18 days, 231.5 miles

[Second-visit Belgium and France days and miles included above]

Sunday, 10 April 2011

...And Home

Four hundred and sixteen days and eight thousand one hundred and thirteen miles later...

So to get the final trip facts out of the way before feelings: I eventually left Berlin on Tuesday 29th April after a few days of running all over the city trying to find suitable parts to rebuild my rear wheel which had cracked somewhere between Bangkok and Berlin. Thanks to that delay I spent a full 2 weeks in the city, hopefully not the last of my time there - I love it.

From Berlin I jumped back on my bike again for what, by now, was the first time in 4 months (yes, this was a bike trip). Thankfully everything, metal and muscle, worked as well as it had before though in terms of the latter just a little more sluggishly. I rode through the centre of the city from the East, along Karl Marx Allee and Unter den Linden, under Brandenburg Gate and out through Tiergarten to the West. I was following the Europaradweg R1 which, incredibly, stretches 3,500km from St Petersburg in Russia to Boulogne-sur-Mer in France, mostly on bike paths and away from traffic. After 60, 70 and 80 mile days on this I decided its winding gravelly nature wouldn't get me home as soon as I wanted - the 3 nights wild camping in the forest being harassed by wild boar made me realise I was over the adventure for now, my mind and body accustomed to more (relatively) luxurious living. I fast-forwarded on the roads for a couple of days of solid south-westerly winds, consistently riding in the same direction as the 100s of wind turbines were facing, seemingly generating at full capacity. I was happy to be back on my bike and enjoying the freedom, but happy to be heading home.

I'd set myself a goal of reaching Bruges to see the start of Belgium's version of the Superbowl, the Tour of Flanders, but with the roads and headwinds I'd have arrived about 5 days too late so I jumped on the train in the west of Germany to skip there for the big day. Bruges is a lovely city, apart from all the tourists, and what with the race and a Scout jamboree it was packed. I was up at 6am to catch all of the pre-race excitement and get my close-up photos of the pros, saw the start and spent the afternoon with a Duvel watching the race unfold on TV in a local bar. Come the finish, feeling slightly drunk (Duvel is 8% beer and I am a lightweight) I rode out of the city for 30 miles to find somewhere to camp, thankfully sans boar.

From Germany (my last new country) back to the Netherlands, Belgium and France, I headed for Dieppe and the ferry back to Newhaven, headwinds persisting and huge HGV traffic on small country roads reminiscent of Vietnam (no beeping though). The riding in northern Europe was as uninspiring as on my journey south and breaks to buy stuff from patisseries and then breaks to eat stuff bought from patisseries occupied most of my day, which following the changing of the clocks were long ones, not really being able to set up camp until dusk set in at 8pm. Then I'd cook pasta, and sleep.

Even over the last few days I continued meeting lovely, friendly people - to name just a few, the sweet German-Turkish girl leaving Berlin (I'm sorry I forgot your name! Let me know how it all goes planning for Australia), the disabled lady on the hand bike who rode with me till I got back on track on Germany, David in week 3 of his trip to Russia and Skandinavia and Ian on his first day on the mainland on his way to Hong Kong and around the world (I was pleased to feel no envy whatsoever!) Mariusz (?!) the very excited Polish truck driver in the ferry terminal and the friendly police at the UK border who were half interested and half intelligence gathering on my time in Iran. Forget the cycling, the people really have been the central part of this trip.

With the feeling of adventure gone (in me, and in the fact that riding in Europe is a bit simpler than riding in Turkey, Iran or India) I was very happy to find myself cresting the hills of the South Downs on a beautiful sunny spring day and knowing that home was just around the corner.


So that's a brief summing up of the last of the cycling on this part of Riding East - over the next few weeks I'll add a few posts with thoughts and moments and highlights of the past 14 months, and what is to come for the future.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011


A whirlwind change of state it definitely has been. I reluctantly left Beijing on March 9th, the day my visa expired, but after a night on a southern China airport bench I crossed the border a day late in Guangzhou, thankfully to no remark. Then it was Bangkok again, the familiar, warm, memory-filled city I arrived in way back on November 18th. Curries eaten, flights booked, bike boxed with the help of Marc, another great, thought-filled dinner with friends Tyler and Tara, and fleeting friendships with more interesting people (Martin, Stef, Lindsey and Kyle), I left on March 15th after 5 days in the heat. Huge excess baggage charge paid, a night in Moscow airport passed quickly with yet more new friends (thanks Line and Jasper), I arrived in Berlin on the 16th. Welcomed by another, even more thorough search and drugs check than in Japan, lasting an hour and requiring my lovingly packed bike to be unpacked in the middle of baggage claim, and resulting in me (wrongly) testing positive for heroin or opium but nothing being found amongst my 42kg of luggage, despite the excitement of the sniffer dog. Ahh, Europe!

Berlin has been my favourite city to date without a doubt; the place I feel I could spend a few years. I was supposed to have got back on my bike on Monday and be a couple of hundred kilometres away by now, but thanks to the huge number of things I want to see and do (the usuals; Brandenburg, Reichstag, Holocaust Memorial, The Wall, Jewish Museum, etc. etc., as well as the slightly more alternative; Tacheles art squat, all-girl Roller Derby, an undercover mission to the Cold War era 'listening dome' atop Teufelsberg), I haven't even managed to unpack my bike yet.

Departure is now slated for Friday but is likely to change - the details of the above along with a selection of the already 500 photos from the city will have to be filled in from home.

For now though, just a couple:

Tacheles - art squat, social space, beautiful atmosphere, but possibly soon to be demolished.

The unfortunate crucifix reflection on the GDR-designed and built TV Tower, with the omnipresent Berlin graffiti. This shot taken from the 'death strip' behind the Berlin Wall.

Inside the 'listening dome' atop the Teufelsberg Cold War era US comms. interceptor, one of Berlin's many underground, alternative attractions

Friday, 11 March 2011

Catching Up with Photos in Bangkok 2

Crazy Lantern Festival Fireworks in Beijing

Qin Shi Huang's Terracotta Army in Xi'an

The eponymous hazy, polluted Chinese city, replicated many times over - it's incredible how quickly the lack of sun, or even sky, affects your mood.

Inside a mosque in Xi'an's Muslim Quarter - a really interesting mixture of Arabic and Chinese influence with a minaret pretending to be a pagoda.
This mosque also has a tablet inscribed by Zheng He, the eunuch admiral of Ming Emperor Zhu Di who, according to the controversial but persuasive book 1421,
set sail and mapped much of the world before Magellan, da Gama, Columbus, Cook, et al.

Cycling atop the 14km of old city walls surrounding Xi'an