England | Dover - Bournemouth - Bath - Oxford - Cheltenham - Redditch - Theddingworth - Melbourne - Manchester - PENRITH | 22nd May to 11th June | 25,337km
NB: This is more than a bit late. We rolled down the drive to Flora’s Mum’s house on the 11th June 2016 and are posting this in November - real life took over pretty quick. That day marked the end of our ride. We crossed through 27 countries over 572 days and pedaled 25,337km, each! Yeah, there were a couple of necessary trains and the odd desperate hitch hike, but most of it was on two wheels, mostly powered by Snickers. Degrees wise we travelled pretty close to a full 180, half way around the world. From 175° East in Auckland, New Zealand to 3° West in Penrith, England.
As we left Gregoire’s house after a week at Calais’ Jungle migrant camp, we hadn’t processed that we were about to cross into our final country. Through French customs and into the little bit of UK soil pre ferry boarding we had our last passport check. The bloke eyed our ragged documents suspiciously, loitering at the big red deportation stamp over Flora’s Turkmen visa. ‘You’ve been a long way’, he mused, gesturing at our bikes. Eventually satisfied he snapped them shut and handed them back, holding on to them just long enough so that we looked him in the eye. ‘Welcome home’, he grinned. *lump in throat*
Approaching our little island we both admitted that the white cliffs were not as enormous we’d made out to a lot of people. It was raining steadily and after an unwelcomingly protracted cycle route out of the port a lady in a BMW gave us the finger for being in her way, making Flo move up onto the pavement. ‘You’re not allowed on the pavement’ a local chastised her… good to be home. Headed west along the coast, camping with some friendly kayakers. Through Brighton and onto the Isle of White briefly, beelining for Luke’s sister Soph in Bournemouth a few days later. It was all very busy and very British.
Northwards away from the coast on a zigzag path to visit aunties, uncles, nana, cousins, friends who’d got married and friends who’d got pregnant! Camped in the Peak before enjoying a ferociously hot week back in Manchester where we’d initially planned so much of the trip. The finished line however, was always Penrith. So we hauled our selves up along the north Lancashire canal routes and eventually pitched the tent for a final time just above Kirby Lonsdale, inside Cumbrian territory. Flo’s mum text saying they were having pizza and beer and did we want picking up? Tempting, but not when we’re this close. The wait was worth it for a fantastic home coming. It was a privilege and our delight to be escorted the last 10 miles by a peloton of friends and family, all the faces we’d talked about, imagined being with, when things were tough. It was June 11th 2016, the cat hadn’t forgotten us and England were about to win the euros.
It’s tempting to wax lyrical over lengthy paragraphs of adventure analysis but to be honest, we’d rather try and tell you about just how small that tent was, or how to loose all your money in Turkmenistan over a beer. A very brief note on cost - living (what seemed) frugally was both liberating and challenging but made the trip what it was. As with all aspects of travel, how much you spend and on what is each to their own but from planning to finishing we spent just over £13,000 between the two of us. Take away flights, kit, visa’s etc and our day to day living allowance was well under £10. We’ll finish by confessing that we didn’t see any dragons. The closest we got was Komodo Island in Indonesia but Luke’s ‘personal’ infection put paid to that. Tom wrote our about section just before we left after we’d tried to explain what we hoped the trip would be for us. Since day one we thought he conveyed the simple notion of wanting to know first hand perfectly:
"Here Be Dragons. The reason as to why this appeared along the fringes of some Medieval maps is still disputed. Some say it marked places where early explorers found the fossilised remains of large, prehistoric alligators. Others state it was merely some dramatic cartographic flair. Whatever the reason, it denoted uncharted territory – a forewarning to those that would venture forward into the unknown.
Today it’s kind of hard to imagine a world unmapped, though exploration needn’t necessarily be discovering what no one else has. For us, our undertaking remains a giant leap into the unknown. A map will tell you where a place is, but not what it’s like. And that’s what we’d like to know.
Two people, two bicycles and enough bated breath to power a small turbine should our dynamos fail. All that we know is we’re starting in New Zealand, and we’re going to head north west, across the World."