Being able to visit so many iconic cities, and countries, whose culture and popularity are hugely well-known, was one of the incredible pinch-me advantages of this trip. We would see the landscape change from countryside, to small towns, to creeping urban sprawl right into the belly of the built up central district. The excitement that we’ve hit another “bucket-list” marker builds and builds until we yell-repeat to each other “I can’t believe we’re doing this! I can’t believe we’re here!”.
After our early morning onsen dip and castle sight-sightseeing, productivity was at an all-time low. Our muscles had been soaked in delicious 40°C stone indoor/outdoor baths, steamed in different herbal saunas and scrubbed with every complimentary soap and shampoo on offer. Our cycling enthusiasm had been reduced to thinly veiled non-committal indifference. All we wanted was to nap and snooze.
The sound of early morning dog walkers signalled us to get out of bed and leave our palatial setup. We had stopped in Ichinomya Koen Nai Camping Ground, a beachside park/campground, but it being a Thursday in early March, no one else was there. We had the pick of every single camp space. But it had been raining all day for the past few days, so instead of a muddy spot in the open air, we had instead set up under one of the BBQ pavilions.
Marking roughly the halfway point of our Malaysia ride we veered inland towards the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. Most major cities are a pain to navigate into; traffic jams, highways and a billion pedestrians but this was one of the easiest rides we had.
From November through February the Malaysian monsoon season is full swing. With roughs seas and endless rain the east coast and its nearby islands are virtually shut down. The west coast also gets it’s fair share of rain but it is said to be a little less hostile, so we decided to take the west coast roads to end at the very top of Malaysia.
As we are spending a year bike touring, we will have flown with our bikes as baggage six times, which means we would have set them up and broken them down twelve times as follows:
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.
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.
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.
Heading to the west coast of England our next pit stop was Malmesbury.
Cycling in Croatia is hugging the white line with no shoulder, sweat dripping down your nose, climbing hills and getting cramps in your fingers from grabbing the breaks. It also has an incredible landscape, rocky and mountainous, with tiny bays, fishing villages, and gorgeous beaches one after the other filled with restaurants serving freshly grilled seafood.
At 5.30am in the morning Cleave shook me awake begrudgingly and with much complaining. After seeing three cruise ships docked in the harbour oozing out thousands of people onto the dock and being smushed by the crowds in Old Town we put on an alarm hoping to beat the masses. Of course now that it was the crack of dawn it was hard to remember the enthusiasm we originally had. At 6am we stood bleary-eyed at Pile Gate, the main entrance to the old city. Usually packed by ice-cream fuelled crowds by day it was eerily devoid of any signs of life.
As soon as we rode into Omis, we could tell this place was really unique. Located approximately 25km below Split, the landscape of Omis looks like it’s right out of the Jurassic Age, surrounded by mountain ranges whose rocky steep slopes rise dramatically behind the town.
Arriving in Zagreb, Croatia’s northwestern capital and transport hub, we were greeted with the news that no further trains within Croatia would take bicycles. The trains either had no luggage compartments or they switched to buses which they refused to give us a ticket for. We would have to ride from here on in.