The story so far....August 2010
Plans are going well. Researching the artistic theme for the trip is endlessly fascinating. From the joy of Monet's gardens at Giverny in France, to the fragrant gardens of the Taj Mahal, to the bronze statue and paintings of the horrors of Ypres, to Rembrandt's sketch of an Indian Moghul. Even sketches by Peter Mundy, a 16th century English traveller, who witnessed the building of the Taj Mahal and whose drawings showed how the early Indian Moghuls and their court, lived and moved around the country on their heavily decorated elephants and oxen. I'm constantly discovering these artistic threads, linking the countries I intend to visit.
The next stage in my preparation is to get all the maps I will need. I found to my delight that the only other Stanfords (the famous London map shop) is in Bristol! No need to trek all the way to London now when I have it on my doorstep. This is why I love living in Bristol - it has everything!
Having Stanfords on my doorstep means that I can now get down to the fine detail. My route then, is as follows: Leaving from Royal Academy of Arts in London - Dover to Dunkirk -Belgium -France - Switzerland -Italy - Greece - Turkey. Fly from Turkey to Pakistan or direct to India. (havn't decided on that one yet) Across and around India. Fly from India to Thailand. Thailand to Malaya to Singapore. Fly from Singapore to USA. LA to San Francisco - across USA to New York. New York to Dublin. Dublin to Hollyhead to Chester and follow Watling Street to London.
You will have to read the book I intend to write when I come back to find out why I 've chosen this route as it would take to long to explain here.
This is a long trip and I will need a break from cycling from time to time, so I will be having 'holidays' from cycling, where some of my friends will come out to join me for a week or so to relax and enjoy the sights and explore more of that particular country.
Whenever a long trip like this is planned there are people who will worry. A few of my friends and family have expressed concerns and anxieties about me going solo on this trip. So, I have put together a list from Lonely Planet's, book, 'Hot Hints and Tips for Travellers' that I was reading recently, to put you all at ease. These are some of my favourites....
'Lone female travelers attract far more kindness, invitations and favours than solo male and group travelers. So forget the essentials of the packing list such as torch, plugs and towel and instead, take one smart skirt and some lippy!'
'Next time you stop off at your local butchers to get some chump chops, ask him to also vacum pack your spare clothes to help save space'
'There are far more smiling faces to be found than dark alleys once you pass the departure gate'
'Those on a bicycle see more than those in a car. And those who stop just to sit and stare on a street corner or beside a rice field in Asia see the most'
'Going by bike gives you a true window on how people live. The museum you might forget but the people you meet - less likely.'
'You don't have to try the crickets on a stick if you are not comfortable with it'
And to finally put your minds to rest once and for all, I will end with this one...
'after the smallest snack, don't forget to wash your hands, -when your're asleep those cookie-crumbed fingers are the ones the rats lick first.'
I hope that's put your minds to rest now.
My own worry is that only having two panniers and a bar bag for all my worldly goods, means that I am constantly searching for ideas and items in which I can save space and weight. Attention to detail is everything on a bike, so here are a few weight saving items I have come across recently.
A spork - an aluminium spoon with 3 prongs on the end to double up as spoon and fork - hence the name, spork. A hairbrush that folds in on itself complete with a mirror in the handle (well it's so handy for putting on the lippy!) A miniature toothbrush that folds into its own case and a drinkng cup that collapses down as flat as a flying saucer. Fascinating - I'm eagerly looking out for any more of these space saving devices. And you all wonder what I do with my days now!
Well, I'm about to bury my head in more maps and books so watch out for the next update in September.