The land of rockets, the endless steppe, and 16 days without a shower

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I’m now in Shymkent. It’s been a long time since my last post. Over 3000km! So I will have to summarise some of my experiences for you and you can embellish them in your own imagination with the aid of some photos. There’s a lot to say even if I have been looking at almost the same view for weeks on end, the Kazakh steppe, boring, beautiful, exciting, cold, hot, dry, icy, lonely, kind, solitary, inspiring… I could go on.

My last post left you in Kursk in Russia which I wrote the day before an unusual experience of going to a Russian steam bath and being beaten with oak branches while starkers, surrounded by similarly naked scary Russian men. Despite it being totally normal in Russia, it was one of the most bizarre experiences of my life, and a massive culture shock. Yet I was soon telling them – whilst still stark-bollock naked, bar the ridiculous smurf-style hat that’s worn in all steam baths to protect your head from the heat – all about my journey and debating how I could deal with the cold.

(Above: some of Saratov’s incredible artwork)

So onto Saratov, where I spent a day and two nights with my host Max, his girlfriend and sister Marya. They gave me a tour of the city and led me to the beautiful wall art on the shores of the Volga river. Russia, despite all the talk of oligarchs and oil, seems to be a very poor country. No prizes for guessing where all the money is going. People in some villages get their water from a pump outside, shops are missing many of the products we take for granted. Most people seem to live in small apartments in tower blocks and kids don’t have their own bedrooms. The people are very kind as you already know, and I never had any problems with the kind of ‘scary Russian people’ that many people back home were fearful I would come across. Someone went as far as to say “but what are you going to do if you come across a group of Russian soldiers and they decide to toy with you…?” Well, my only contact with Russian soldiers was at the border, and they went as far as making sure I had water before I crossed into Kazakhstan. They also translated between me and two Kazakh guys, whose car was being searched, when they asked if I would like some food!

Max and his family

My first night in Kazakhstan was stunning, I stopped early that day as it was the first time on my journey that I didn’t have a schedule to keep. I crossed the Russian border on the day my visa expired and so could now relax. I pitched my tent at 3pm and basked in the warm afternoon sunshine. As night fell the stars began to poke through the velvet shroud of dusk and soon the Milky Way was unveiled, in full view, brighter than I had ever seen it before. I lay in my sleeping bag with my head poking out of my tent. Feeling like I was perched on a celestial platform created for the greatest show on earth, there among the stars rather than trapped on our little fragile sphere. After staring at this view for sometime I got that feeling one often gets when looking at the night sky for long enough in the dead silence of the night. That beautiful feeling where you disappear, that feeling of our incredibly small place in the universe, like a notch in the fibre of a piece of thread making up a patchwork quilt of the most terrifying and peaceful vastness. Within that notch, on that spec of dust, we live out our unbelievably short lives. In a thousand short years, who will remember us? That is what I wondered as I drifted off to sleep in my first night on the Kazakh steppe.

The setting for the stars that were to come

 

Next stop was Uralsk where I stayed with Azamat, whom I found on the Couchsurfing app. I had a great time there with him and his cousin’s family, trying traditional Kazakh food such as Beshbarmak, which was utterly delicious. Yet because it was made from horse, an animal I seem to have an innate respect for, it left me feeling a bit guilty. Unlike beef, pork, or chicken. Slightly irrational I suppose but then you can’t ride any of those animals into battle…

The next leg of the journey was the longest I’ve ever gone without a shower. Uralsk to Baikonur, sixteen nights in my tent, some of them snowy, most of them icy, it was brilliant. I was ill for the first five days of that journey, but kept going. I cried and crapped myself on the same day although not at the same time. I think I cried first. One pair of pants down, one left. Before you all ridicule me in your minds, I know the truth. At some point in your adult life, you’ve all made the same terrible error of judgement on a fart while ill, even all the really hot girls reading this… if you weren’t ill, you really should be ashamed of yourself. Also I can confirm that wet wipes are one of the most underrated products of the 21st century.

My tent, blanketed with snow

Waking up to snow was fantastic, that silence created by a blanket of air and ice surrounding you is amazing. That same day I was stopped by another Kazakh guy called Azamat, he gave me a short 10km lift to a cafe where he bought me a huge meal which I tried repeatedly to pay for but he wasn’t having any of it. At one point after the Karabutak crossroads while still very cold a group of road workers laying new tarmac stopped me and gave me tea, some food, and a high vis jacket while simultaneously tarmacking the road. I felt like I was with a group of mates again, walking alongside the smokey leviathan laying the new trade route between China and the West.

As I headed south from the Karabutak crossroads to Baikonur it steadily got warmer and I could shed layers of clothes. Camels started to appear, which I began shouting at out of boredom. They don’t seem to react at all to any kind of verbal abuse or compliments.

Getting the hump: a camel stands proudly

I arrived outside Baikonur feeling pretty elated, in my mind it had always been a big checkpoint and goal on my trip, especially with a package being sent there from England containing snow tires, second hand Antarctic survey boots and a second, warmer sleeping bag, for my jaunt over the Pamir mountains into China. Also dark chocolate, birthday cards, a small birthday present for me, and thank you gifts for my hosts.

Baikonur is actually part of Russia and closed to foreigners unless you can get a very difficult to obtain pass, which I couldn’t. So, I had to slip through a gap in the perimeter wall… that done, I stayed with my host Rishad and his family for some time and honestly can’t thank them enough!

After Baikonur I made my way to Kyzylorda. During that journey I was camped one night next to a dried up lake bed with small hillocks surrounding me, obstructing my view to no more than 20 metres in most directions, making me feel very safe and cocooned. Until I heard howling. First it was one animal, then two, three, four, five, six. After this the noise blended together but I could hear more animals joining in. I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end, and everywhere else on my body, a slight shiver going down my spine. I wouldn’t say I felt scared but I did feel a mixture of exhilaration and a kind of deep primal intimidation, I knew I was experiencing something quite special. These animals can’t have been more than 60 metres away and I knew they must have been aware of me, I had just opened a can of fish. People had told me there were wolves in this area of Kazakhstan and to be careful but, until that moment, it really wasn’t something I worried about. But then I reminded myself that wolves rarely attack people for no reason and they’re probably quite scared of humans. That night went by peacefully, I slept well apart from a loud noise outside the tent in the middle of the night, I sat up, shouted to scare away whatever it was and then went back to sleep.

Your imagination can run away with you on this one…

So here I am in Shymkent, I left a lot out of this post because if I wrote everything down we would start to have a book on our hands. I experienced more extreme kindness travelling from Baikonur, such as being invited into peoples homes for tea, for dinner and a bed, for meals in motels and then a free bed in the motel. I’ve been given money which I tried hard not to accept, but the man shouted at me so I took it. I had the first night of my hostel here in Shymkent paid for by an amazing man called Daulet from the Couchsurfing app who wasn’t available to host me in his own house.

Travel has already taught me so much and I think it’s something everyone should strive to do, it really doesn’t have to be expensive and after only three months I feel it’s changed me for the better, this is something I plan to expand on in a later post.

If you enjoy reading this post, please find the time to donate to my fundraising page. I’m trying to raise £5,000 for CLIC Sargent and Hope and Homes for Children!

Dust, skidding paws, and a brawl of fur and teeth

If you enjoy reading this post, please find the time to donate to my fundraising page. I’m trying to raise £5,000 for CLIC Sargent and Hope and Homes for Children!


This post continues from my previous post, which you can read here


The next morning, I cycled in the rain to the border. My lorry driver friend Alexander dropped me off in Kovel in Ukraine about 50km from the border, I hope that little cheat doesn’t upset too many of you. Thank you Alexander!

The following  day I began my four day cycle along the M-07, one road which goes all the way to Kiev, two days of which I had wonderful tailwinds, and the rest, soul-destroying headwinds. Ukraine seemed to be as poor again as Poland compared to Germany, the road was lined with people supplementing their income by selling mushrooms they had collected in the forest in the early morning. Sometimes in the dawn while cooking my breakfast I would see them walking quiet as ghosts with a bag or bucket and a knife, they never disturbed me or spoke to me. I took very few pictures in Ukraine due to cycling so much which I feel a little regretful of. They’re of course all in my head, I just can’t show you! What I saw of Ukraine is beautiful with the peaceful pine forests, and wetlands with open plains. There were so many peacock butterflies fluttering along the road, although sadly many succumbing to car windscreens, reminding me to be careful if I didn’t want to meet a similar but messier end.

Soon I was in Kiev taking a day off staying with some more amazing warmshowers hosts. Anton and his wife Sveta and their very cute four year old son Vanya, took care of me and welcomed me into their small flat with my bike and it’s parasitic luggage. They treated me to proper Ukrainian food which was delicious, the last night of which included dried fish with a beer, or two. They sent me away with five fish wrapped up in paper which I really enjoyed with another couple of Ukrainian beers, in the dark, in my tent.

Anton and Sveta and their lovely food

The journey from Kiev to Kursk was headwinds all the way which upset me massively at first but I learnt to deal with them, and learnt that shouting profanities into the wind has the opposite effect you would want, what with the microgram of thrust produced by your own breath slowing you down even more. So I decided that the extra force required to overcome the headwind would make me stronger and the rest of the journey easier, a philosophy which could possibly be applied to many aspects of life?

Kiev

Just before the Ukrainian Russian border in the ancient town of Hlukhiv I was taken by surprise. I was at a shop about to buy some food when a guy called Roman stopped on his bike and started talking to me. He asked where I was going and where I had come from and as is usual was shocked when I told him my intended destination! He then invited me to his home for food and said that he and his Father would cycle with me to the border.

Me with Roman and his family

The Ukraine-Russia border was… totally fine, they were very friendly but ever so slightly intimidating, which I think is no different than any other border crossing. They did a little search of my stuff, thankfully no rubber gloves were needed.

Roman’s Mother and Father

It was pitch black by the time I got into Russia, so I cycled about 2km and put up my tent in some woods in the dark, cooked my dinner, had a dried fish for pudding, and went to sleep. In the morning in my tent while packing up I heard a Jeep pull up next to the woods, cracking twigs and quite voices alerted me to the fact I had been discovered. I came out of my tent with an unthreatening friendly face and was greeted by two young border guards with Kalashnikovs. They weren’t at all intimidating, apart from said Kalashnikovs.  They asked for my documents, looked at them and then smiled and left. I then cooked my breakfast and packed up.

So my first day in Russia began slightly eventfully and continued that way with yet again, wait for it… (is this getting boring?) more human kindness!! I went into a small village shop to see if they would accept Ukrainian money, as it was so close to the border. They didn’t accept it but asked in very broken English and hand gestures what I was going to buy, I told them just some water and some crisps because I wasn’t really sure but I couldn’t say I wasn’t going to buy anything. They took them from the shelves and put them on the counter. I told them I have no money, they laughed at me and said “it present, for you!” I tried to say no but then quickly accepted as I didn’t want to offend them.

So yesterday I arrived in Kursk and just before that wonderful moment which I will get to, I was chased by a pack of dogs. There I was, cycling along happily, quite tired, when I heard barking. Looking about, I couldn’t see a dog anywhere, so I continued my cycling, but the barking wasn’t going away, confusingly it was getting louder. I turned around and, holy shit! Running out of the entrance of a large mechanic’s garage was a pack of about five dogs, paws skidding, throwing up dust in a brawl of spit and fur and teeth. You’ve all seen Jurassic park, you remember that scene with the T-Rex and the jeep, the T-Rex is gaining on the jeep and Jeff Goldblum is screaming at the driver to go faster. Imagine five T-Rex’s. So I started peddling, screaming mentally at my legs to peddle as hard as I could. One of the dogs impressively ended up alongside me, I could hear its panting and guttural growling, teeth bared, legs at full stretch, obviously enjoying the chase. I’ve never peddled so fast, i didn’t think with all of the weight on the front of my bike it would be possible to wheelie it, but out of fear I pushed so hard the front wheel came off the ground and luckily I didn’t poo myself. There was also a woman at a bus stop laughing at me, I was also laughing manically out of fear. After this intense burst of physical activity combined with fear I felt superb. Note: I’ve heard the dogs in Kyrgyzstan really are quite terrifying, I’ll look forward to them.

So, the wonderful moment of arriving in Kursk. I let my Warmshowers host know where I was and then sat down in the local park to eat my lunch. You already know what I’m going to say. A woman came up to me and asked in Russian where I was going, I told her and then she took me to her house and gave me coffee and biscuits and chocolate bars.

The kind Russian lady and I

I need to remind you of my state at this point, unshaven, probably stinking of a mixture of BO and fish because of my late night snacks in my tent, filthy hands and stained trouser. This woman invited me, a complete stranger who doesn’t speak her language, into her lovely warm house for coffee.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this update, I know it’s been a long time coming! I’ll do my best to get some more posts out.

Human kindness (again), and the meditative joys of cycling

If you enjoy reading this post, please find the time to donate to my fundraising page. I’m trying to raise £5,000 for CLIC Sargent and Hope and Homes for Children!

So, I’m in Kursk in Russia enjoying a day off, well organising/uploading photos and writing this post. Five days ago I was in Kiev, rushing around trying to see as much as possible, but then decided to take it more slowly and absorb more and leave bits for another time. I can’t believe how quickly that milestone has come and gone, soon I’ll be in Kazakhstan!

Kursk

Eleven days ago I was at the border between Poland and Ukraine with a Ukrainian lorry driver called Alexander whom I had persuaded to take me across after asking about six other drivers because you aren’t allowed to cross on a bicycle. Nine hours later and we were through, Gary the snail from Spongebob would have won in a race with me. I should have been in a really really bad mood considering I cycled in the rain all the way to the border but spirits were high rather than sodden.

Into the distance: Ukraine

I’ve been on the road for over five weeks now! It’s gone by in a flash yet it feels like I’ve been gone forever. I’ve seen so much! The easy part of the trip is gone I think, summer is coming to a close and autumn is falling. The trees have started their September and October shift to different hues of oranges, browns and reds. Over the past two weeks the mornings have gotten colder, which oddly I’ve been enjoying, although that might change… In the cosy warmth of my hosts’ home here in Kursk, they informed me that at 8am this morning it was 3°C… which will be perfect for my -18 sleeping bag as I’ve been waaaay too hot.

I have a feeling that the trip over the next month will transition to a point where the highs are much higher and the lows are much lower than they have been. The further east I go, the friendlier and warmer the people seem to become but obviously winter is coming and with it bitter cold and brutal, yet mindblowingly beautiful, landscapes. Over the past month I’ve been in the pleasant comfortable middle ground of Europe where everything is relatively familiar and neither overly exciting or overly boring, unlike the thousands of miles of Kazakh steppe ahead of me, which also oddly, I’m looking forward to. Now I’ve begun to boldly wander into the much wilder lands of the adventure, full of scary Russian people and bears and wolves… Before I do that and have almost no internet access I should probably let you all know how everything has gone up to this point.

First of all, as I was cycling through Europe, I was constantly reminding myself of how incredibly lucky I am to not have been born two or three generations ago. I’ve been acutely aware of the history I may have been cycling past, or maybe I should say I’ve been acutely aware of my huge ignorance of the history I’ve probably been cycling past, to the point of disgust that I don’t know more about the huge sacrifice that millions of people made within living memory. I intend to educate myself more on it after this journey.

Artwork in Ukraine

The adventure so far, plain and simple, has been brilliant. Getting out of your normal life and surroundings seems to bring such clarity of thought to your mind, much more often than you would in the humdrum of daily life and routine. Cycling almost seems to be meditative at times and I get these tendrils of creative thought rapidly weaving their way through my mind: ideas; ideas for the present, short, medium and long term future, I have a hard time keeping track of them and sometimes if they seem important enough I have to stop and write them down. As I mentioned before, I’ve also become aware of how important it is to be in the present, which can be difficult at times when you’re hungry and tired and worried about making up the miles to get through Russia before your visa expires!

Since my last post I’ve traversed two countries. As you’ve seen, peoples’ kindness is just incredible and continues to be so. They’re all routing for me and I’ve felt such a strong sense of support from so many strangers.
I want to thank Henrik and Elisa in Meiningen, Germany who I spent two nights and a day with. Even though Elisa was eight months pregnant they still warmly welcomed me into their home and since that time Elisa has given birth to a beautiful baby girl called Linnea! They cooked traditional German food and I was given an evening tour of the town. The next day they then cycled on their tandem 20km with me to say farewell and good luck. I can’t thank them enough.

Henrik and Elisa

Wild camping is illegal in Germany but I was never stopped, either because people are kind or because I’m too sneaky. Germany is beautiful, it seems to have it all and there isn’t enough space here to describe it.

Germany

Poland was very different to Germany, almost an instant change on crossing the border which I didn’t notice I had crossed until, about 2km in, I thought, ‘this doesn’t feel very German’. It is obviously a much poorer country and that’s not surprising considering how much it’s been beaten down throughout history, it hasn’t really had a chance to stand up. I had only my second day off after stopping in Wroclaw with Mateusz, whom I also found on the Warmshowers app. After a last minute request to stay he amazingly accepted and that evening took me on a tour around Wroclaw, he was a fantastic host, thank you Mateusz! I particularly enjoyed the vodka and beef tartare in the vodka bar and the shop-bought Bigos we both enjoyed.

Mateusz

The next day I had my broken spoke incident with my lack of tools which you can read about here. This taught me the wonderful lesson that apparent problems can lead you to the greatest tear-jerking experiences of human kindness.

After a few more days of wild camping I then stayed for a night in Lublin with Poweł, an acquaintance of someone I had also contacted on warmshowers. Talk about networking! Poweł is a vegan and cooked me a delicious homemade pizza for dinner from scratch, dough and all! And then a huge breakfast of coconut butter on bread with peanut butter, nuts, raisins and two bananas!

(CLICK the images to enlarge them!)

After Lublin I slept in my last wild camping spot in Poland, a fond farewell in utterly stunning surroundings.

My last camping spot in Poland

The next morning I cycled in the rain to the border. My lorry driver friend Alexander dropped me off in Kovel in Ukraine about 50km from the border, I hope that little cheat doesn’t upset too many of you. Thank you Alexander!

Part two of this post is coming soon!

The kindness of strangers

This is a mini post about meeting one of the kindest humans I’ve had the pleasure of meeting so far.

Two days ago I snapped my first spoke, in the rear wheel on the cassette (cogs) side, so I stopped at a suitably shaped tree to use as a bike stand and went about trying to fix it. This is where I quickly discovered what an utter moronic novice I am, I didn’t have a cassette tool or chain whip to get the rear cassette off so that I could then take the old spoke out and put a new one in. To top it off it was a Sunday so all the bike shops were shut and I had just had a day off and only cycled 30km and I’m behind on my schedule to get to Russia… but I figured, this adventure is at least 180 days and decided it really wasn’t all that bad, what’s an extra day, the obstacle is the way as the stoics would say.

So, I walked my bike another 5km and pitched my tent early, relaxed and enjoyed falling asleep to the sound of heavy rain drumming loudly against the fabric of my tent. In the morning I had breakfast, packed up and slowly slowly cycled to the nearest bike shop. When I arrived, they told me they were too busy to fix it but a guy called Andrzej Bos would be able to. So, I then turned up at a kind of farmhouse-looking place, with lots of bicycles outside, it had a nice feel to it and I could see an old workshop with the door open but no one inside. I knocked on the front door and a rather grizzled and sour-looking – but as it happened, very nice – old lady opened it. I understood nothing she said, but through an open window I could hear the sound of plates clinking and I assumed the bike mechanic guy was still having his breakfast, so I waited and played with a little black Labrador puppy.

Andrzej with my bike

After five minutes a healthy-looking late middle aged guy in blue overalls and flip flops with socks came walking out straight towards me and shook my hand firmly with a warm smile and introduced himself. I told him my problem and he nodded his head vigorously saying yes to each thing I told him. Then I told him that I’d come from London; he seemed shocked. I then told him I’m going to Tokyo. “Tokyo, Tokyo?!!” he said, in a slightly higher pitched voice than normal, we both laughed and then he quickly wheeled my bike into the workshop and told me to sit down. He then asked if I was thirsty, with water and cordial being brought to me in response. Then, about five minutes later, coffee and cake appeared too. By this point I was pretty shocked by the hospitality and almost felt a bit guilty as I didn’t feel I had done anything to deserve being treated so well.

The unexpected coffee and cake

I sat and watched Andrzej work on my bike while I enjoyed my coffee, cake and the amazing workshop I was in which seemed to have a lifetime of memories bestowed upon the walls. Andrzej’s wife then came out and introduced herself, we did our best to communicate and she asked if I was hungry, I jokingly said I was always hungry when cycling, she laughed and then quickly disappeared coming back with sandwiches and tea. Andrzej then said something in Polish and his wife translated and said “you do not pay, this is all for free”, I tried to protest and did so more than three times but they refused.

There is such a thing as a free lunch

I had never experienced kindness like this and began to feel a bit emotional; all faith in humanity restored. In only my third week, I was experiencing yet again on this trip the true kindness people can show, the kindness you’re never really told about in the news.

Andrzej didn’t just fix my spoke and give me breakfast, he also checked and trued my front wheel, checked my gears, and cleaned my whole bike. After having one last try to give him some money for his time I was refused again and sent on my way with a packed lunch.


If you liked my post, please take the time to  head to my Virgin Money giving page to donate. Over the course of my trip, I’m hoping to raise at least £5,000 for CLIC Sargent and Hope and Homes for Children.

Reality bubbles, mouldy chocolate cake and a fusion reactor: the things I’m enjoying the most

So an update on my progress… with an extra four days of preparation at home after cycling from London to my house in Kent I finally set off for Folkestone to spend the night there with Jane and Chris, the operators of an airfield and some friends of friends.

I can’t thank them enough, they fed me dinner and were excellent company, especially Jane’s 95-year-old father Henry, who recounted his experiences as a Lancaster bomber pilot and his four successful flights in the Pathfinders unit. Henry recounted his fifth flight where he was shot down above Berlin, I listened with mouth agape, in awe, I felt so lucky to hear this.I think it’s so rare to come across someone with those experiences, let alone one who is willing to share them with you. That night I slept under the wing of one of their planes that they fly.

My first night in a tent, near Dover

The next morning was a mad dash to Dover, catch the ferry to Dunkirk and then spend the whole day cycling and wondering what the hell I’m doing trying to cycle to Japan. I really didn’t enjoy that first day on the continent, but I think like most things in life that are challenging and worthwhile, the first time you start out probably won’t be much fun, you just have to persevere and you’ll be rewarded.

The next day I cycled through Bruges. Just as I expected, it was very charming, and I’ll have to go there again after I have this trip under my belt. That night I found a great wild camping spot 10km west of Gent, sat down for my stove cooked dinner of chickpeas, sardines and tabasco sauce, (not as bad as it sounds), and contemplated what I was doing and how to make the most of it.

I realised I had been worrying a lot, first about the unknown, what was to come in the next six months and secondly about the day to day problems like how to buy food without getting your bike nicked. I decided to just accept that there will be bad days, when I’m hungry and thirsty and cold and tired and lonely but that they will all be worth it for the people I’m going to meet, the stunning landscapes and night skies I’m going to see and what I will learn about myself while I experience all of this.

Brussels was my next stop but I needed some water and didn’t want to buy any. Instead, I turned around and cycled 100m back to a hotel I had seen, you never know…

Norbert’s delicious food

The man who owned the hotel – his name was Norbert – seemed shocked and amazed by the scale of the challenge ahead of me, but told me that of course I could have some water. When he came back he had two bananas and an orange with him. This act of kindness put a massive smile on my face and confirmed in me why I was doing this. I sat down, was about to start eating when Norbert came out again with a full plate of food, something that looked like a chicken casserole, I was elated, I couldn’t believe the random kindness I was experiencing, my day went from a good day to an amazing day. I sat and enjoyed my meal and spoke to Norbert who told me he used to be the chef for the Belgian cycling team. Again I felt so lucky to meet such great people.

Onto Brussels, where I spent my first night behind solid brick walls rather than a layer of fabric. I stayed with Benoît, the brother of my best friend’s girlfriend, and his wife Anne-Lynne. They were both incredibly supportive of my project and took me out to dinner, gave me breakfast and lunch to take with me the following day, and donated to my two charities!

Again, I was amazed by peoples’ hospitality, I can’t thank them enough. The next night I camped within 30 metres of a motorway in a small clump of trees completely invisible to anyone, and slept like a baby. The night after that it was another farmer’s field, and now here I am in Germany, another night wild camping enjoying eating dinner in the dusk, under a pink star-spotted sky, with nature’s evening chorus in full swing.

So what am I enjoying about the trip so far? The wildlife. People watching. The exercise. The unfounded fears being dissolved. I’m enjoying the sunsets, seeing that giant fusion reactor that hangs in the sky get redder and redder as it slowly dips below the horizon. I’m enjoying cycling through people’s bubbles of reality, for me I get to see the roads, landscapes and the people change, and even the smells from the various restaurants, urging me to go in. Yet, the people I go past know each of these places as their homes where everything is more or less permanent and they except that that’s the way it is. I already miss the silky smooth cycle lanes of the Dutch parts of Belgium, now I’m mostly confined to the edge of the white line.

The bike seems to be holding up well with its 40kg of luggage attached to it like some sort of giant parasite.

What am I eating on my travels, you might ask? Mainly rice, for breakfast lunch and dinner.

Breakfast: Rice with cinnamon, allspice, mixed nuts and honey, and a cup of coffee.

Lunch: Rice with a tin of fish and some chopped vegetables. Dinner: Rice with tinned tomatoes some spices and whatever I’ve bought, maybe some sausage or fish. Plus some ketchup because I’m immature.

Snacks: A piece of fruit and some nuts, the flapjacks my grandmother made me disappeared three days ago and are sorely missed. The last mouldy piece of chocolate cake that my mum baked for me I ate two days ago, mould scraped off. It was still delicious and I feel fine.

Also, I smell. Bad. But, I’m having a terrific time, so it’s all okay.

More photos to come!

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Please head to my Virgin Money giving page to donate. Over the course of my trip, I’m hoping to raise at least £5,000 for CLIC Sargent and Hope and Homes for Children.