Archives for category: adventure

Okay France was the second country which I crossed on my journey I arrived on the 18th February with the sole purpose of getting out of Calais and finding somewhere to bed down for the night and found a place which I had used before near the town of Wormhout so put up the bivvy bag and settled down for the first night of many beneath the stars. I have been debating with myself whether to write a blog for France as I was in the country for less than 24 hours however I think it warrants a blog as I had my first inkling of problems and someone may stumble across it who is planning to ride a bicycle out of Calais and this may help!

 

Cycling out of the ferry is always fun, and if you can get organised you can be off before the cars but if like me for this trip it took a bit longer and I ended up waiting for all the cars to leave and was last off, the rain may of made me reluctant to leave but hey I got off eventually. Calais is kind of hard to navigate but with a map and compass and a GPS route I found the road I wanted easily enough and it is very cycle friendly, I would recommend anyone who is cycling out of Calais to head for the Wormhout road. Wormhout is a small town where you can pick up the North Sea Cycle Route if desired, this is the path which I have taken before and leads all the way up to Norway if you desire. It also links with the R1 Cycle route which will take you to Berlin and beyond from Den Haag. A path which I had taken to Berlin in 2009.

 

Waking up in the morning, it was my first morning on the road in the middle of nowhere on the adventure of cycling around the world. The weather had changed and it wasn’t raining I was in luck! I decided to make some breakfast on the stove for the first time, I made tomato pasta and proceeded to burn my tongue, great start! However with fuel in the body I loaded the bicycle up and proceeded to hit the road and aim to get to Belgium which wasn’t too far away!

 

Before I knew it I was on the quiet French country lanes which are great for cycling, I was following the North Sea Cycle Route for a short while but noticed an issue with the front mud guard, it was rubbing against the tyre slightly and as I thought it might be worth checking I had an issue with the back rack as somehow coming down a hill it had become tangled with the rear guard and this proved to be a problem. I was cursing myself for having these minor problems on the first proper day of cycling. I fixed the problems and carried on going. France is a great country for cycling there is no denying this. It was also nice for it being a Sunday and seeing all of the roadies out pounding the roads like they do every Sunday but what isn’t great is the fact that everything is shut on a Sunday so it is near impossible to get supplies, especially if cycling through the little towns.

 

Feeling good though, I was ever approaching the Belgian border and looking forward to another cycle friendly country. This was a simple day mostly and was just about ensuring I was getting into the rhythm of riding. I enjoyed the cycle paths which immediately followed the Belgian border and would soon discover that it is pretty much possible to cross the whole of Belgium following paths.

 

I found myself in Belgium for a few days so will give it it’s own blog where things started to get a little more difficult. I experienced some very frozen weather in Belgium and also more technical problems and the start of the issues with punctures. That is more to come and I hope with the difficulties I can add some humour to the blog, this was more of a if you want to cycle out of Calais it is entirely possible and easy to get on some great routes blog!

Introduction

Whilst I am still in Bangkok awaiting the new frame before I can get going again. I am assured it is coming soon! I thought it might be fun to do a series of blog posts following my most memorable moments from each country that I have visited thus far. If it isn’t fun I do apologize but it is still good for me to have a record of them so I will do it anyway!

February 18th 2012 – The start of something major.

The day that had been in my mind for over a year arrived, the first mention of such a date to anyone was during a shift of work. I explained the concept and that I fancied being a part of it and before I knew it I realized I had told too many people to back out.

February 18th 2012. The day I leave Greenwich Park in London to cycle around the world, I wish I had a feeling of excitement that morning. I awoke at 5 AM after two hours sleep feeling terrible and extremely lethargic. I had all my visas sorted; I had all my equipment, the only issue was the fact I did not know where my passport was for certain! I had a good idea that it was in a library photocopy where I was taking copies of it the previous day however I was about to go to a start line with nine other riders and a fair few cameras to leave London and yet I was uncertain as to whether I could even leave the country!

Packing the night before the race. Before I realized the missing passport!

 

To add to my misdemeanors, the tunnel from Isle of Dogs to Greenwich under the River Thames was undergoing maintenance so I had to try and sort a different way of crossing the river. I left my friend’s flat at 05:30 and thought I would cycle around it.

I got up to Canary Wharf and cycled around the business area although I was a bit lost. I also regretted the way I had set up the luggage on the bicycle but thought it too late to change anything now. I then came to a tunnel under the river with fast traffic and a sign saying no bicycles. Great!

I didn’t want to risk it and feared not making the start on time so went back to the original tunnel which I knew had a stairway down to the bottom before a stairway up the other side. This was far from ideal but I carried my 45 kg set up down 11 flights of stairs and back up the other side, just what you need the day you are about to set off on a prolonged endurance event. Being on the correct side of the river was my first challenge and I had overcome it, cycling around the world was going to be easy now

The start line was great, lots of people came to see us off and people were taking pictures and showing interest in each rider’s set up which was great. I was still being grumpy in the corner though desperately trying to contact the library which opened at 09:00 about the passport. I managed to get through to them eventually and they had the passport, which was something at least!

After a quick dash back over to the other side of the river I retraced my steps to Greenwich Park where I rode from the start line at around 10:00 for the destination of Dover. The weather was overcast but didn’t look to be anything to worry about in London so I set off smiling and looking forward to the challenge ahead. I decided not to take the most direct route to Dover and take a route which would keep me on smaller roads for part of the way. I had read many things about the A2 being notoriously cycle unfriendly so I thought it best to avoid this.

The set up was working fine and I was making progress albeit slower than I had hoped. With the delay of the start I thought the best thing was just to get to France that day. It didn’t matter about the total distance just get on a ferry!

I rode down as far as Canterbury feeling quite comfortable but then I started to doubt myself and the rain started. This was unwelcome as it was the moment I was on the dual carriageway that is the A2 all the way to Dover. I carried on riding and the bicycle just seemed to not be moving. I didn’t enjoy this slog at all. I thought that getting to Dover would be a simple task and I would be running on adrenaline and make it there with little problems however it turned out to be a different case.

Drenched! Hurting and tired I pulled into Dover and the desk to buy a ticket to France, the woman behind the desk explained that Simon had already been there and gave us special friends and family rates which was a welcome surprise which perked me up a little! Finally getting out of Britain! I was excited and didn’t know exactly what the plan was when I got to France but knew I would need to clear Calais before going to sleep so I was in for a late night. I eventually cycled 30 miles into France and put up the first bivvy opposite a spot I used a few years back when cycling to Berlin. Overall day 1 was stressful and tense but a good show of what was to come.

As I only spent one day in France that will have to come next, the purpose of these blogs is just to show what I feel was the most interesting day of each country I passed in order, so there will be a blog for each England, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, India, Nepal, Thailand.

What an ordeal that was, who knew flying could be so stressful! Either way I am in the land of smiles now and cannot say the transit in Delhi did anything to cure my sour views of India. Here is how my day has panned out;

I woke up at 4 AM. Plan was to get up early and make it to the airport but not this early. I could feel my stomach was swollen and after an illness less than 48 hours previous I knew what this meant. I waited for further confirmation and a sinisterly nasty eggy burp came out. Yes, I was in for a fun day of traveling with further food poisoning.

I started to package up my things and get ready for the airport. I had a 20 kg allowance and was carrying around 40 so had to try get as much as possible in hand bag to minimize costs.

The lack of appetite and stomach cramps meant I was keeping toilet roll close, a rarity out in Nepal as left hand is the common method.

Arriving at airport I went to the counter and they explained my allowance was only 20kg. I tried to act shocked like I didn’t realize but they were professional and said I would need to pay excess. I couldn’t work out the charges but it was £60 for 10kg they charged me. My luggage was 34 total but they charge me only for 30 so that’s something.

The plane journey was uneventful and we arrived in Delhi at 11 30. The issue was the plane I was suppose to transfer to left at 12 15, I knew India was dumb and they make you do security again so this was going to be tight!

There were many others in same position but no one from the airline was present! Joined the massive queue for security and tried to explain the situation. All the Indians just said wait and relax. I felt uneasy and queued with about 15 other similar aged people in same position.

Eventually I got to the screening. They were not happy with my bag. I had nice rope which they took. A roll of tape which they took. They nearly took me carabiners, and were going to take my brake and gear cable but I kicked up a fuss and they didn’t. Bastards!

There wasn’t much time to argue I climbed the escalator to the terminal and saw the flight on the screen, ‘Gate Closed.’ What a joke I thought but made my way to the gate with some others. I would of been mad to spend any longer in India and round the corner an official from the airline said ‘Bangkok?’ After saying yes, he said run this was. I was dehydrated. I was tired and I was ill so said I would walk!

About 8 of us made it on the plane. I feel sorry for the others and I was off to Bangkok! Arriving at 18 30 I just wanted to get to the hotel which I got good deal on like £8 a night it’s as good as any I have stayed in!

I arrived and checked in. ‘We have upgraded you to a better room for your stay free of charge.’ I like Thailand. Someone had my bags up in the room for me and didn’t hang about for a tip. A different world here! I have a plan forward which I will divulge tomorrow. I now have regular connection so should be able to get some content up!

So the bus from Kampur was fairly straight forward left at 9 PM did not manage to sleep and got to the border at around 7 30 AM.

When arriving, the driver asked me for 200 rupees for no apparent reason.
I told him where to go in better language and got my bike off the bus to the preying vultures of Rickshaw drivers below. Once they realized I was going to the border they gave up trying to get my business as it turned out the border was around the corner.

I walked to the border and saw a guard, he told me to leave my bike with him and go to the next post, I did this and was promptly told that this border had no immigration and therefore I could not cross here.

Kind of figures that a local bus goes to a local border. I didn’t really enjoy this much and was determined to have rice and lentils before sleeping in Pokhara that night and this was another set back! I got told I must head to Sunauli which was 70 km away. I counted my money and decided I would just get a car whatever the cost within reason so went back toward the vultures.

I started asking cars away from the masses to take me to Sunauli but none were forthcoming so I joined the masses and said where I needed to go. I got offered a ride for 2500 rs a ridiculous price in all honesty this journey should cost maybe 2/300 I said 1500 and they said 1800 I was very tired so accepted.

With my bike and me loaded in the car we sped to the border at a whopping 30km/hour dodgy roads were to blame. I did not trust the drivers at all so had my tracker on and was following close on GPS. We got close and they got out to eat. I just wanted to go but could do with a drink so got some water and some nuts. We left and I didn’t pay, this would later come back to screw me over either more.

About 10 mins after the stop we arrived at the border I unloaded the bike and loaded gear on it so I could wheel it over the border. Driver wanted money and I only had 2 1000 rs notes. I knew I wouldn’t get 200 change I could just sense it.

He tried to explain the price of the stop was 200. I said it was 50 tops if that, he gave me 30 rs back, I was at the border and that was the main thing. I could have knocked the kid out but violence is wrong especially so close to peaceful Nepal.

I was in Sunauli and wheeled toward the border. I saw a sign for Indian immigration and saw a stop on the right side. I went in and they gave me a leaving form to fill out and gave me an exit stamp. Thank the lord for that!

I continued to wheel over the border and under the ‘welcome to Nepal’ banner. That wasn’t hard and you could literally walk across without getting a stamp or anything quite easily!

I saw a sign for Nepal immigration and went to get my visa. I spoke some Nepali to the guys inside and was just thankful to be there. Got a 3 month visa for $100 as plans were unclear and filled in the paperwork and gave the 1 required photo.

Said I had been before and liked the place and the guys were warm and friendly. I left and was on my way. Outside a guy asked if I needed a bus to Pokhara or Kathmandu, I said Pokhara but was dubious to what he would charge as he was an obvious middle man. He explained he could sort me a bus to Pokhara, taxi transfer to a hotel and a nights stay for 1400 Nepali Rupees which is about 12 quid.

Sleep deprivation got to me and I accepted, I could of done it alone for perhaps half the price but this was a stress free way. Only thing was the bus did not leave for 3 hours and arrived at 2 AM. I was happy to chill for a while and watched the chaos of the border from a restaurant.

I got on the bus to Pokhara, my bike was loaded and people didn’t ask for a tip! I got chatting to the ticket guys and they were friendly and let me sit at front as legs and knees get killed on buses. I gave them my version of classic Nepali folk song ‘Resham Piriri’ and they all laughed. Happy people. I took part in the infamous Nepali pee breaks where you stop all of a sudden and maybe 20 men get out and line the road and pee together! Quite social! And stopped for rice at around 10 PM.

We arrived around 2 AM and there was a taxi there for me. Don’t you love it when things work? I got to the hotel and slept. Finally in Pokhara a way forward has been reached and I can continue this journey.

I feel in next blog I need to restate my aims of this trip. It started out as part of the World Cycle Racing – Grand Tour which I am still happy to be involved with albeit not the quickest member. I have also sorted a solution for the way forward which I can explain.

I am going to Okhle village (

The time was around 7 15 and after spending the night on a sleeper bus where albeit I did get my own compartment and was able to lie down I did not sleep due to the bumps and the horns of Indian drivers, we pulled into Indore bus station.

I looked out the window and a lot of Rickshaw drivers looked back at me smiling and sensing money. It was way too early to be enthused so I must of looked quite delicate to their delight. One even put his key down the side of the window to open me up to the world outside.

The bus driver and ticket guy were nice people and told me to stay on the bus and asked me what my plans were now. I told them I wanted to get to Shivpuri, they gave me tea and said I needed to go to different bus station. They got a Rickshaw to load up all my bike and 5 bags and me! They also agreed price of 50 rs so I was happy and these guys were very nice!

The bus to Shivpuri was 420 rs. Again I sense I was ripped off but I had no choice and got going. Transport count 4 and non stop travel since Mumbai really. This was a local bus so took forever as went through every village on route and had to change buses halfway through. Saw a lorry overturned halfway through just showing that the organized chaos that is Indian driving has it’s risks. The wheels were still running so it had just happened but the driver was out so it was okay.

The bus to Shivpuri was interesting, an albino Indian guy got on and sat next to me so 2 white people together caused much amusement. I don’t know much about albino condition but I have seen more than one in this part of the world, don’t know if it is more common or just the fact they stick out like a sore thumb.

Arriving, I unloaded my stuff and wanted a bus to Lucknow, it appeared there wasn’t one and I should get on a bus to Gwalior which is a city where I can continue the journey. Transport count 6. This bus was a rip off I can’t remember exactly but taken advantage of! Charged me for ticket and for luggage and then for luggage again when arriving at Gwalior… Great!

I wanted to get to Gwalior quick in hope of a sleeper to Lucknow as it saves money on hotel but road was blocked for 45 mins and we got in late. Lucky the bus station was next to a hotel so I went and got a room, guy wanted 2000 I said 1000 he said 1500 all in I said okay as was tired.

I ate first proper meal in days and prepared for day ahead, I got to bed at 3 AM and wanted to be up at 7 to find the right bus. I closed my eyes and opened them again and it was 8 30 crikey I was tired! I rushed to the bus station without luggage to find a bus and got told none to Lucknow and I should get a bus to Jhansi which leaves at 9.

I ran back to get stuff, breakfast was off the menu. Had to do 2 trips and only just made it in time. Again this bus was a rip off but cannot recall the price. On the map I was going back on myself south so was a bit annoyed as buses were starting to get to me!

Jhansi was full of unhelpful people as I needed a bus to Kampur which was 10 meters from where I was dropped and no one would help me put things on bus. eventually 2 guys said they would for 50 rs each. A rip off considering the work but I had little choice. This was another local bus with a electronic ticket printer thing. Ticket said 157 but guy said 350 because of luggage. Corrupt idiot was obviously now 200 rs up. This bus took forever and Kampur was massive when we arrived. Big city with all the waste and foul smells which come with it in India. the bus park was very large and I talked to the 20 people who crowded me when getting off the bus to see if there was a sleeper to the border with Nepal. They said yes! My luck was in perhaps! One guy showed me to the bus and I loaded stuff on and took a seat. It was 250 rs so I bought 2 in the hope of getting some sleep and no made-up luggage fee! I had not eaten all day and bought some crisps and drink from people selling them at the bus. Transport count 8. Finally to the border and into Nepal… If only things were that simple. One more twist in the tale to be explained in final part 4.

So, wanting to go away to some exotic land is a nice feeling. You plan the whole thing out, sort out where you are going to go and for how long and the date gets closer and closer. However with these exotic locations come exotic diseases, and if you are a man, like me. You will probably have left your health to the side and realise just in time that you need to have rounds of injections to protect you against all the nasties that we do not get here in the UK or Western world.

 

I plan to talk through the nasty stuff and why it can all add up as well as the timings needed for the jabs and the issues one can face. Firstly from the UK perspective, if you are going away you will need to fill out a form to your GP showing where you are going, when and where you will be staying. If you say rough camping the whole way like I did you are soon in for a shock!

The lovely NHS, free healthcare for all! What a delight, it’s a shame that most of the jabs you will probably need when going away will not be covered by the NHS, shame! However typhoid and a few others are which luckily I had before this big cycle trip so don’t need to worry about. Here is what I was recommended to get;

 

Hepatitis B – Blood disease, transferred through sex or blood transfusions. Three Injections over a month.

Rabies – Nasty, bites or licks on open wounds, feral animals. Fatal. Three Injections over a month.

Japanese Encephalitis – Mosquito transmitted disease, effects your brain. Two Injections over a month.

Tick borne Encephalitis – Tick transmitted disease, effects your brain. Two Injections over a month.

 

With all of these cheery diseases being described to me, I decided to check with mother as to what she thought I should have, obviously I’m a poor student I was willing to wing it in essence but mother told me to be fully covered so I held my breathe and went to get them done. As I was living up in London and my GP was in Dorset I had to go to a travel clinic in London. I went to the London Travel Clinic on Oxford Street and told them what I needed and the cost for the first round of injections was £245. This was only for the first round which hurt me, aswell as the two injections in each arm which made me feel slightly funny getting on the tube.

 

A week later I went back to the clinic where I had the second dose of the rabies and hepatitis B jabs which cost £90. These were okay and despite the running total of £335 thus far. I was far too busy to think much of it, it was just one of those things which I needed to do to keep me safe and I had 100 other things to do.

 

The third round of doses I was going to get back in Dorset so had the prescriptions for them and had to cash them in Dorset. Not a great deal happens in Dorset unfortunately so when I turn up to a local Boots store predictably they do not have the vaccinations and have to order them in. I got the price however and that was £168 so a bit cheaper than the travel clinic up in London. Proves that if you can get them all done by your GP, it is the best way ! I believe that Boots do cheaper vaccinations than other pharmacies but don’t have any evidence to back this up but I was happy with this price. This is the third and final round of injections so I am immune to most things now hoorah. In the words of Boris from Goldeneye, ‘I am invincible!’

 

However, there is always one more thing… malaria. Seems a long way off for me, especially with the cold weather at the minute, carrying malaria tablets through the -20′s of Eastern Europe is going to feel odd but it is another thing which I have had to consider. There are three types of malaria tablet, one which gives you hallucinations and bad dreams, one which is an anti biotic so has the potential to clear you out and give you a bad stomach and the third, newest one which I have opted for which is mallarone which predictably costs the most… Not sure of the total cost yet but will let you know when I have the stuff.

 

So the running total and ten injections later I am £503 out of pocket and they say you can’t put a price on your health. I disagree!

 

 

 

Firstly, with my involvement in running this trip it has always been my aim to be able to show others that I am nothing special I am just a student wanting to have a fun trip of a lifetime and therefore I want to explain all the things that have been giving me trouble with organising the trip and one of these big issues is visas!

I had to consider when thinking of visas about validity. Most visa applications have to have entry to the country within three months of the visa being granted. This means that you have a bit of a rush to get them all as I did not want to apply for any before January as that gives me to April to get to the countries that I want to reach.

With my trip heading east, I needed to get visas for the countries I would be visiting after the EU runs out, the visas I need to get in the UK are Russia, Kazakhstan and India. Here is a quick note on my experiences of getting them!

Russia Visa
The Russian visa is pretty straightforward, to visit Russia you need to get a letter of invitation from an inviting organisation. This can usually be done through a hotel booking but because I plan on camping all the way through Russia I found travel agencies online who could give you this document and I used http://nevsky88.com/ who were cheap at £13 and professional in giving me this supporting document.

With this document you can fill in the online application form before printing the whole lot off and taking it to the visa application centre in London. Here they have a electronic ticket system where you get a ticket with a number when arriving and wait till your number is on the screen. Works well and I didn’t have to wait for more than 15 minutes. There is an express service but I just used the normal 5 working day service which cost £76.40 in total and received my Russian visa.

Kazakhstan Visa
Despite the website for the embassy of Kazakhstan saying that nationals from ‘x’ countries no longer need a letter of invitation, when I initially went to the embassy with my applications they turned me away so I had to get an invitation from http://stantours.com/index.html. The invitation cost me £51 and took about a week to come through.

With this document you have to fill in an application form which is printed and hand filled in and then write a cover letter requesting the issuance of a visa. With all of these documents and the passport photo attached to the form I went to the embassy for round two! The embassy in London is open 9-12 Mon-Fri EXCEPT Wednesday which it only is open for Kazakh nationals. I turned up at about 10:30 and there was a 10 minute queue before I got to the desk. The documents were looked through and passport number checked against my passport. After this I paid the visa fee of £35 bringing the total for my Kazakh visa with support to £86. This is the cost for a single entry 30 day tourist visa.

Indian Visa
India, like Russia have outsourced their visa applications to a private company VFS and have an online form which needs to be filled in online and then printed out. The annoying thing about the Indian application is the photos. You are required to give 2 photos with the application and they have a different size to normal passport photos you would get out of any machine you would find in your supermarket or high street. The visa application centre conveniently has a machine which will do you square photos, giving you 2 for £4.

With the application form, photos and your passport you can then apply for the visa. The cost of six month visa is £42.20. A service is also available to have your documents and visa sent out to you by courier which is the service I will use, this costs £7.40. With the photo fee, visa fee, and courier fee the total for the Indian visa is £53.60.

Rushing around getting visas can be stressful but it’s just important to read the forms carefully and do what they say to the point. An example of this would be the Russian visa said glue the photo to the form. I stapled it and was delayed at the desk as the person on the other side removed the staple and glued the picture.

The total spent on all of these visas therefore comes to £229. I’m sure it will all be worth it when I’m on the road!

Next blog will be the Primus OmniLite Ti review that I said I would do. I am very fortunate to have one of these as they are not on general sale yet so will give you a glimpse of what it’s like!

Okay, I am just a little stressed at the minute with trying to get everything sorted so I can make it to the starting line. Some of the things which are on top of my list to be done are getting my visas. I have worked out that I need to get a Russia, Kazakhstan and Chinese visa before leaving the UK so am looking at the forms and hitting embassies, fortunately I am currently based around London so getting to embassies is less of a struggle. I will write a full post on the hassles of visas once my hassle is over!

Jabs and anti malarials is another biggie. I need to get all sorts, rabies jab, typhoid, anti malarials for parts of China and Laos and my arm becoming a pin cushion is the least of my worries. This is all in hand, once I finalise what I need should be able to sort this pretty stress free although wallet heavy!

The bicycle! I’ve left it kind of late to get this sorted but yeah, my bike could do with a few tweaks before the off, I have been into my local bike shop in Dorset, out of all the ones I have been in, here I got the best service in the past with a full sheet of what had been done during a service what parts changed and what problems may be coming up soon and the price was good and had a chat with the guys, hopefully we can sort something out soon and get the hub and other amendments slapped on the bicycle. I am sure there will be developments on this shortly! The bike shop is Poundbury CycleSport thoroughly worth checking out!

The route! So many different border crossings, locals only and keeping an eye on the FCO website ahhhh, nightmare. It’s all coming together though and I am happy with what is happening but just looking forward to pedalling off into the February sun on February 18th (Fat chance). Finally the rummage to ensure I have all the kit. Need to get a few more things but am leaking money out of my ears. This isn’t great so trying to be frugal but don’t want to be short so stress isn’t helping me keep a clear head!

Finally a challenge! A challenge eh. I will be cycling from London on February 18th into a lovely Winter, I would like to camp and cook as many meals as possible on the road. Nothing like bivvying under the stars and this is why I propose to camp in as many locations as possible. Hopefully I will not get disturbed but will try and get a photo of every camp spot and if previous trips are anything to go by there will be some less than discrete spots to laugh at.

Best be off now, early start to a certain embassy tomorrow. Wish me luck!

The route has been a major dilemma for me to choose for what I want to do next year. I thought that I want to do something exciting and go to places that I would never visit on their own and see some of the massive countries in their entirety. Therefore this is the initial plan.

Route for GBR 2012

Leaving from London and heading over to Dover will then take me through Europe and into Russia before crossing into Kazakhstan. From here I plan to travel into China before crossing into Vietnam, Laos and Thailand and riding down to Singapore. I then plan to catch a flight to Melbourne and cycle across to Brisbane before flying into Wellington where I will cycle up to Auckland crossing my antipodal point. I shall then catch a flight to LA where I shall do coast to coast of the USA before flying to Lisbon where the final slog back to London shall occur.

I think that routes faster than mine probably exist but as I am on a low budget and want to see different places I am happy with my route and plan to ride it fast even if the roads aren’t great! Next on the list is to look into the visa arrangements and see what I can sort out in London before setting off. The more the better! But yeah here we are in November, all kicks off in February, it’s all feeling a bit more real!

I awoke early and couldn’t get back to sleep so decided to anxiously rise. The day was quite clear and I guess it was nice that we wouldn’t be walking in the rain. I had the standard bread and egg breakfast and before long we were packing our bags and off, all the information boards along the route which give a guide time of how long it will take to get to different places we had beaten thus far and the board telling us to get to base camp would be 4 hours, we hoped to beat and relax in time for elevenses. I was quite apprehensive as to whether I would get altitude sickness at all, as on a trek, two weeks previous in the Helambu region after rising from 2400m to 3600m I didn’t have the best of nights sleep!

Start of the 'big day'

The pace was quite slow to begin with but I wasn’t going to up the tempo as I was unsure whether going quicker would increase my chances of getting ill. The climb wasn’t very steep which I found surprising seen as we had 1000 metres to climb. We crossed a lot of very precarious bridges and the path slowly started to turn away from the valley that we seemed to of been following for days. Before long a couple of houses came into view and I checked my watch and we had nearly been walking for 2 hours and I realised that we had come across the Machhapuchre base camp which is a bit of a non existant as the mountain is considered sacred and has never been climbed so having a base camp is a bit of a tourist con! Nevertheless it was a nice place to have a break and eat a mars bar! I took a video at this point and playing it back am surprised at the heavy breathing.

 

At this point we overtook a French group who had been annoying us for days and carried on walking. They weren’t too bad, we just were at a couple of lodges with them and there over joyfullness and ability to fill a teahouse was quite great due to the fact there were about 12 of them. After about half an hour the view was magnificent and it was possible to see all the lodges at Annapurna Base Camp in the distance and they looked deceivingly close. Everyone in the group was walking fine and there were no signs of altitude sickness and we carried on the slug up to the lodges and went past a rock where it said that it would be one more hour before we reached the base camp, the path really wasn’t steep and just took a while and was a gradual uphill.

The fake basecamp.. Machhapuchre. 'Fish Tail'

Eventually the path seemed to even out and I looked at my watch and we were at 4000 metres so were pretty much there. We crossed a river or two and the area was a little snow covered. We came to a sign which pretty much said welcome to Annapurna Base Camp and we carried on up a few steps and arrived at the lodge we would be staying at for the night. I took a few photos and video at the sign.

 

After putting all my bag and the stuff that needed drying on the line I relaxed and was surprised that I didn’t feel ill an had a cup of tea to celebrate. The view from the base camp were quite good and it was nice because in pretty much every direction you could see mountains and there was a lot of history at the place. We arrived there at 12 and it took us 4 hours which was surprising but we felt we did it well and at the lodge there were a few other English people so it was nice to chat to them throughout  the day. One guy in particular was a professional photographer and had been living in Nepal for 5 years making me a little jealous of what sounded like a perfect job. He had spent 2 months at Everest Base Camp taking photos of a summit expedition and also explained that it was nearly a full moon so the sky would be lit up at about 4 in the morning and all the mountains would glow if we got up. And me with my love of getting up at 4AM thought this was a good think to do.

Made it! Victory shot at Annapurna Base Camp sign!

I  set an alarm for 3:45 to check out the sky and the rest of the day was spent talking and eating. I watched the Nepali guides and porters playing a nice card game and getting quite into the gambling and took a little video.

 

We went to bed quite early because of the 3:45 AM rise and on the way to bed I saw the photographer who was sceptical as the cloud was not lifting. Who knows whether I would see the beautiful sky or not!

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