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If you are reading this blog having been passed it on by a friend, here is a short 800 word summary of our trip round the world that Katie wrote for a cycling magazine.
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Around the world in 800 words...
The easy part was deciding to combine two things we both love - endurance challenges and travelling. The hard part is making it happen.
Whilst impossible to find the “perfect time”, this seemed as good as any. Money saved (to buy a house), no dependent elderly relatives or children, and confidence that we would find work on our return.
It took nine months to plan, and in October 2016 we finally hit the road.
The warm up was across the UK – England, Wales and Ireland – then to the USA. The cycling was flat and mostly uneventful. The USA however, was electric.
We were diving headfirst into election fever and crossed the Southern States which at the time was a Donald Trump heartland. We were in Texas when Trump was elected, one of the biggest political upsets in recent history.
Next stop New Zealand, a country sitting between two tectonic plates and constantly at risk of earthquakes. We camped during minor tremors, and although we arrived in their summertime, we were battered by brutal wind and rain for ten days - this made cycling a challenge!
Although the temperature was cold, we experienced the warmth of these resilient people, whose lives and homes live on tenterhooks, waiting for the next shudder.
South East Asia was an assault on the senses. Arriving in Vietnam, we headed north west through Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar. We were fascinated to learn more about their cruel resent past, for example the Vietnam War and Cambodian Genocide.
The dry heat made the cycling tough, but the flat roads ensured we racked up miles quickly. Food ranged from fresh insects to fresh fruits, with the staple of rice to keep us going.
Then Bangladesh. Unexpectedly, yet undeniably the most hospitable country we experienced. Countless memorable nights staying with locals, trying on national dress - we even made the Bangladesh News!
Nepal brought mountainous scenery like we’d never seen before. Though roads turned to rubble at times, heading up into the Himalayan foothills was a highlight of the trip. Then India – challenging on all fronts. Constant staring, trucks, horns beeping and 47 degree heat, it was like cycling in a noisy fan oven.
Little known Central Asia has so much to offer. The never ending Kazakh Steppe, the snowy mountain passes of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and the ancient cities and deserts of Uzbekistan. One of the greatest parts of travelling by bicycle is watching the landscapes change in slow motion in front of your eyes. These former Soviet Union countries were our favourite of the whole trip.
We crossed the Caspian Sea by freighter ship, then onto the Caucasus, powering through the flatlands of Azerbaijan and into the beautiful rolling countryside of Georgia.
Finally back to countries we are more familiar with. It all became a little stop-start; in Turkey it was impossible to stop without being given tea and food, and the Greek coastline meant we had stop for at least one swim each afternoon.
We savored the hills and the beaches on the magnificent Adriatic coastline in equal measure, as we trucked on through Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Slovenia.
We entered the final leg of the trip having not given much thought to two of our close neighbours: Italy and France. They proved a brilliant finale and we were blown away by the history, culture and cuisine that’s right on our doorstep.
It’s not always easy or as glamorous, as Instagram would have you believe.
We’ve been chased by wild dogs across the Balkans, and were almost robbed in India. We’ve crashed multiple times; into bikes, motorbikes, potholes and each other. We slept rough in Azerbaijan, in underground tunnels in Kazakhstan, in wartime bunkers in Albania, in a horsebox in America, in churches, mosques and temples.
The kindness of strangers has been overwhelming. We have been taken in by random people, and friends-of-friends-of-friends on many occasions.
We’ve travelled through democracies, dictatorships, countries under monarchic or military rule, and countries where it’s impossible to know what on earth is going on. We have learned above all that people should not be judged by their politics.
It’s crazy to think that 11 months ago, we left our flat in London by bicycle, and now we have returned having powered ourselves around the world with our own two legs.
It has never been clearer to us that anything is possible if you have a healthy body and mind. I believe this adventure will enrich our lives in many ways – and if it doesn’t, then at least we’ll have some great stories to tell at dinner parties!