After riding over 1,200km from the bottom of Thailand, Bangkok was only 60kms away. But with all the overladen speeding tucks flying past our elbow the distance became irrelevant. We had cycled as far as we could but the roads, (expressways) were just becoming too dangerous to ride. Our chosen road, Number 35, had been a two-lane road, but then kept widening, adding more and more extra lanes as we inched closer to the city. A friendly traffic policeman stopped us at one intersection and kindly reached into the open signal box next to him, pausing all the lights so we could cross before the traffic.
Twenty kilometres were all it took to cycle from one side of Singapore to the other. The roads were busy but there were plenty of shared paths for us to jump on. It was hard to pull away from the amazing hospitality from Suyin’s family and the daily food comas but we had a flight booked in Bangkok and needed to ride up the coasts of both Malaysia and Thailand to get there.
Ever since France we had been cycling just ahead of the leaves changing colour. The last few Spanish towns had only one or two trees changing, glimpses of yellow and red, but this was the first real sighting of the full Autumn spectacle.
Bárdenas Reales is a semi-desert landscape covering over 42,000 hectares in southeast Navarre. Made up of clay, chalk and sandstone, years of erosion has sculpted almost lunar effects, full of gullies, plateaux and cliffs. The first thing we came across were abandoned cave houses cut into the cliffs, now housing swallows in the hundreds.
We left the Spanish coastline, making our way inland towards Pamplona. The map showed nothing but mountains all around us so we were expecting hellish inclines. Instead the inclines never appeared as the road simply followed the river, weaving between the hills, leaving perfectly flat riding for us to enjoy.
After our unconventional night we rode off into the sleepy morning for the final push into the bustling sophistication of Bordeaux. Despite our sleeping arrangements we were in good spirits and looking forward to smashing out the last 25km so we could find breakfast. Flying over the bridge and onto the River Garonne promenade we were greeted by the stuff of foodie dreams. Bordeaux’s Marche des Quai, a fresh food market on every Sunday, selling everything from freshly shucked oysters to stacked piles of warm baguettes to char-grilled prawns.
Six months on the road! Six months of travelling on two bikes, eleven countries (thirteen but we’re not counting our two hours in Bosnia or Vatican City), over 5,000 kilometers and 417 hours, 48 minutes and 47 seconds, give or take, with our butts in the saddle. For two people who didn’t ride bikes, who didn’t even own bikes, we are absolutely loving this way of travelling.
Cycling the west coast of France is a Beginner Bike Tourer’s dream. Information is plentiful on how to complete this journey though I’m sure I can whittle it down for you into five easy steps.
We were excited to get straight to a week of holidaying with the family we ended up riding for eleven days straight without a break, arriving at Sennen Cove TWO days earlier than expected. Awesome! However since we didn’t have wifi or a phone we had no way of letting our family know this. Small detail. Our plan was to set up at our campsite, have a well-earned shower, ride onto their holiday cottage and see if they were home. If not we would hang out on their doorstep until they turned up. We were going to surprise them good.
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 prestigious university town of Cambridge oozes in solomn and historic academic achievement yet it’s River Cam, that runs through the heart of Cambridge and along the backs of the colleges, juxtoposes this with crowded punts, cheerful yells, clumsy feet and sunny hilarity. We spent two nights here, and loved every minute of it.
Without even looking for them we would regularly come upon cycling route signs while bike touring in England. From converted rail tracks, to quiet back roads to river paths we would favour these routes instead road cycling and competing with trucks and buses. The UK’s National Cycle Network stretches over 14,000 miles across the length and breath of the UK and is based on the theory that if a cycle route is well-built, it becomes well used. We can definitely vouch that most of the tracks we came across were spectacular!
We swung into Oxford where our next Warmshowers host, Stanley, was waiting on the steps of his place. Stan had so kindly offered his sitting room for us to bunk down. The house was a student rental with four levels, one level just of bathrooms, and kitchen cupboards stacked with a mish-mash of jilted pots, plates and mugs left behind from bygone students.
Our EasyJet from Rome flew in at 1am to Luton Airport, and despite the early hour we were psyched to begin our next leg on the trip, our loop around England. We had organised a Warmshowers stay with Sam and Anna, but we weren’t meeting up with them until 10am. This gave us a good amount of time to build the bikes, grab breakfast and check out the centre of Luton before arriving at their place.
For our last day together in Rome our good friends John and Jess had organised one last jaunt which involved my absolute favourite subject in any country: Food. A walking food tour of Roman specialities to be exact.