London engulfed us as we stepped off the platform at St Pancras, commuters pouring out the train doors and through exits, swirling around us as if we were stones in a fast flowing river. We waited on the side until the ebb slowed, making our way single file, following wheelchair access signs to lifts that would take us above ground.
The famous river section of the Thames was not far, we hit the Tower of London and Tower Bridge in quick succession, stopping for our turn for the requisite cheesy photo opp!
We walked the bikes across Millennium Bridge, slowly making our way through the crowds of pedestrians, now losing count with the numerous London landmarks that loomed along the riverside.
Pushing our gear at snail pace through the bustling tourist throngs around Big Ben, Westminster, The Eye, finally thinning out at the street stalls and urban art of Southbank.
With the rain coming down fast and heavy now, we followed the Thames southwest, with a few false turns, with the path finally becoming wider and quiet into leafy green Battersea Park. We were also rather quiet, both thinking about the enormity of what we had achieved in six months to arrive in such an iconic city, under such a unique trip.
We didn’t have long to dwell though, arriving at the front of Nick and Margitta’s home, our Warmshowers hosts for the next two nights, who threw open the door with a huge warm welcome. Veteran cycle tourers themselves, having rode through Pakistan, Asia and Africa to name a few, it wasn’t long before we were spreading out maps and noting down points for the next few weeks as well as our upcoming legs in France and Japan.
The next day we went to tick off a couple of London sights, firstly to the British Museum.
We both wanted to see the Rosetta Stone, the key to unlocking the ability to read Egyptian hieroglyphics, lost for two centuries, and now a symbol of discovery, perseverance and hope. Getting our fill of statues, textiles, artifacts, and an entire room full of mummies, we met up outside for home-baked pastries, thanks Nick!, and coffees.
Margitta and Nick spoilt us rotten, walking us all over town, into the National Portrait Gallery, a photo exhibition and through Trafalgar Square. The time to go came way too quickly but not before Margitta personally escorted us safely out of the London traffic.
Dropping us off at Hampton Court Palace, the favourite home of King Henry VIII.
The day was spectacularly and suspiciously sunny. We were riding so easily we wondered if the weather had eased off on us. But instead of wind and rain we got bike paths covered with fallen trees, victims of the former. Between towns we hadn’t seen anything other than farms and paddocks and were pushing on 3pm without food since breakfast. Rustling through our bags Cleave found the Kendal Mint Cake, a UK expedition classic, an energy ration we had bought for a laugh. Consisting mostly of sugar fondant and mint oil and tasting like solid toothpaste we grimacingly nibbled a corner each… and pretty much FLEW the rest of the way! Very effective.
Our campsite was one of the prettiest we had seen, with tall straight oak trees, remnants of a forest that were once used as ship masts.
And a heated pool which we made immediate use of!