Our first major cycle tour ended with me swearing I would never ride again. It was awesome and horrible all at the same time.
From July 2004 to January 2005 we zigzagged our way around Europe, and on towards Jerusalem. We were young and naive to the challenges of cycle touring. My bike was crappy, our tent leaked, we thought that bike pants were an unnecessary luxury, and I (having never been to Europe) wanted to see it all.
Shocking news struck straight away… Mic had (unintentionally) lied. The main attractions of Europe were not in fact ‘really close’ to one another… cycling out of Paris one day and into the Vatican City the next, turned out to be impossible. Hmmmph.
The next hit was the rain. It pounded us relentlessly through southern France. There were three weeks of repeated night wakings and attempts to move my sleeping bag out of a puddle. Three weeks of the puddle vanishing by morning and Mic not believing my sodden plight. Each morning I would stare at the brooding clouds and beg them to dissipate. We hurled abuse at the cows who were sitting down (an apparent sign of eminent rain) and applauded cows who were standing. We were rain crazed and mad. My non breathable jacket clung to my arms and I grew to hate the feeling of rain drops falling on my bare legs. There should have been a series of hotels, or a train trip, or at least some regular hot chocolates. Instead I snapped and ended up crying on a strangers shoulder. He invited us to stay in his Chateau and for a while our luck changed.
We found ourselves not enjoying the big touristy sites as much as we imagined. Instead the quiet moments were what we remember fondly. The small forgotten backroads long since deserted by hurrying motorists, the sweet smell of barley in hot summer air, the surprising canyon that met us as we turned a bend, and the kind strangers who took us in.
So there I was deeply enjoying the slowness cycling forced upon me.
As the barley scented sunshine gave way to more and more mountain ranges, and the toll of carrying more than my fair share of our equipment began to sap my body of its reserves, my daydreams once again turned to motor scooters.
The Pyrenees were hard, our climb over the Simplon pass from Italy to switzerland harder, but what finally broke my body turned out to be the mountains of Greece.
We found ourselves going up several major climbs a day in an ugly barren landscape. Food was scare and roadworks common. Then it happened, 15km from the small mountain village of Metsovo the tendons behind my knees stopped working. We hitched a ride, I smoked a cigarette, and we rested three days. It sadly wasn’t enough for my tired body to recover so I limped energy-less through the rest of the trip, quick to quit in the face of any challenges.
Despite finding cycling difficult it did allow us to see a special side of Turkey. Apart from loving the history and incredible natural wonders we feel in love with the people. We were never short of cups of tea and in Karacabey a group of students who had never met native english speakers before adopted us. The next day they proudly took us to their school for some sort of special show and tell, one that we enjoyed more than anyone.
On our way up the 1000m climb from below sea level up to Jerusalem I passed a professional cyclist on his expensive racer. I felt awesome. I cruised for a while hanging on to his coaches car chatting, then powered on with my trusty crappy bike, onwards and upwards towards our goal.
It was awesome and it was horrible. But there must have been more awesome in the mix, because… we decided to do it again.