The Route

The Route
It is a very long way.....

Saturday, 15 October 2011


14th Oct - Leiden to London!!!

What a perfectly beautiful sunny day to finish the trip! I can't believe this is it! What a trip :-)

Up early to get packed and get on the road. Said goodbye to Andrew. It has been very much fun to have a few relaxed days in Leiden. I would have liked to have stayed longer but I need to get back to the UK now. I have been away for too long. It is a very beautiful city, Andrew and his friends were lovely and I felt very comfortable there.

This is a photo taken by Maria as I set off on my last day.

Xena (my lovely bike) on her last day... I'm carrying so much junk that I don't need now but it was not worth posting back. After all what's an extra 10kg to carry? It just makes you go a little slower. I would rather work harder and not pay the postage home.

Xena is broken in so many ways and so is a large amount of my equipment. I'm going to photograph all of my things when I get back to see what survived the trip (actually very little). Xena has a big thick tyre on the front as my slick tyre split in two a few days ago. The slick on the back is worn through so that you can see the blue under the rubber.

I'm sure that this was not supposed to be smooth... The "teeth" of my gears have turned to "gums"! Only one of my gears would work without slipping.

The ride was only 42km. I took the route through The Hague to see what it was like and then along the sand dunes and coast for the last 10km. The Hague felt very futuristic and was very clean - almost like in a sci-fi movie.

The Netherlands felt like just one big city with a few "parks" (otherwise known as farm land) in between the cities. It is lovely but far too built up and the population density is far too high for my liking. There is some lovely old architecture in the city centres though.

Although there are so many bike paths and cyclists I did not really like cycling in the Netherlands. I have missed hills over the last month. I love mountains. My legs did not really feel like they had been properly used. Europe has been too similar to the UK and too easy really once I had biked in Mongolia/China/Nepal/India. Not enough of a challenge after these other countries. It was fun at first to be back in civilisation but then it quickly became dull.

I felt very strange cycling the last few kilometers of my trip. I could not listen to music or audio books as they just frustrated me but then I thought too much when they were not on in the background. I was all unsettled. It just felt strange.

I biked to the sand dunes on the way to the ferry. As soon as I saw the sea tears welled up in my eyes. I could almost see England. I felt sad/happy/relieved/excited all at once!

I just sat for a bit and watched the waves. I took some photos of Xena and myself. It was a beautiful sunny day.

When I left the beach I had to push Xena a small slope as my gears would not bite with any pressure. How embarrassing! I did not have to push her up hill in the Himalayas and here I was in the pancake country of The Netherlands and I was having to push. A lady was sitting watching and so I felt the need to explain that my gears where broken etc. I carried on and after a couple of minutes she jogged after me and asked me how I felt having finished and what I had learned about myself during the trip.

I said that the main feeling that I had biking through Europe after all of the other countries was how small Europe is and how the cultural differences are so tiny in comparison to other parts of the world. I said that I have learned what breaks me. It is not physically tough challenges, feeling afraid or pushing myself to do new things. It is relationships and personal things that break me. I can still be very happy on my own without speaking English to anyone for weeks at a time, camping on my own in the wilderness and being physically exhausted but if someone I care about says something nasty to me it is that is what upsets me. I'm a big softy inside.

Another solo female cyclist, Loretta Henderson, wrote and article her website about crying while on the road and asked when other cyclists cried. I have not got round to replying just yet (I will) but I found it interesting to read about others experiences and how similar they were to mine. I did not once cry because of physical exhaustion or fear in foreign countries. I cried for other reasons: One other cyclist guy cried when he had to put a tortoise out of it's misery after it had been hit by a vehicle. I had exactly the same experience and also cried doing that. I cried when 3 months in to my trip I found out that not one of my family or closest friends had even looked at my blog (I felt very alone then). I cried from shock and loneliness when I was hit by a motorbike in China and by bike was bent in 2 and I fell off (not until I was out of the village an on my own). I was very glad to have an internet connection on my phone at that point and to get messages of support from friends on FB. It made a big difference. I also cried over a few relationship things. And I cried today.....

The kind lady I met on the beach gave me a huge hug and said "I love you, you are an angel and you made it. You are very courageous". She could not have said anything more lovely to me at that point. That physical and emotional support from a complete stranger was one of the most deep feelings I have felt for the whole trip. Having been an independent adventurer for the last 13 months those kind words and a hug meant so much and I just burst into tears - what a girl!

I only had 5km to go to get to the ferry at that point and I headed off trying to pull myself together. I had managed to do so by the time I arrived at the terminal.

I treated myself to Fish and Chips! How very English.

The least they could do is spell it correctly!

It was no problems to get Xena on the ferry. It was £4 extra for the bike and £34 for the journey. Definitely the cheapest way to get to the UK with a bike. If I had a flight it would have been much more with the excess baggage and it was also much more expensive to go from Calais by Ferry or to go on the Eurostar. I was in a seat and settled about 1 hour before departure.

Last views of Europe.

I spoke to someone in the UK on skype, someone I have known for years, and after I had asked how he was and he had replied with what was happening with him he asked where I was and I said on the ferry back to the UK. His reply was "Oh right" and that was it. No "welcome home", "congratulations", "looking forward to seeing you" or anything like that. Maybe this "support" is one reason why I have the independence/strength to solo ride 18000 from NZ to the UK... Sometimes it has very much felt like I have had more support from people that I met along the way than people in the UK.

The ferry ride was pleasant and I treated myself to some perfume and chocolate. I was pretty tired as I have not had much sleep over the last few days - too much partying. It gave me the time to write some blog entries and get my thoughts together.

There were loads of English people on the ship. and at first I really enjoyed it. However, after a short amount of time I realised that I preferred it when everyone around me was speaking a different language and I could not understand what they were saying... At least then I gave them the benefit of the doubt that they were talking about something interesting, in a witty and intelligent fashion!

Shame it is not the Radio 4 version of England that I am returning too (I listened to podcasts all the time connecting me with the Motherland as I cycled) and it is the real thing instead... I seemed to be returning to the "Daily Mail" version of England (sorry International readers these comments will be lost on you :-0).

The first view of England and home - it set me off crying again... Big Girl!

My first steps on UK soil! As my gears no longer work and it was late at night when I arrived (and I did not much fancy Couch Surfing in the UK - I just wanted to see my friends as soon as possible), I caught the train to London.

I found it quiet funny being back in England and only about 20% of the conversations going on in the train carriage were in English!

I had a warm, fussy feeling inside when the train was delayed. "Ahhh" I thought - "I really am home"!

I met a lovely woman getting off the train at Liverpool Street. She also had a bike and was going in the same general direction and very kindly let me follow her so that I did not get lost.

London was really busy even at 10.30pm. It was strange for me as I was in my home country but as I have never lived in London and I don't know it very well it still felt like I was in a different country. But then when a drunk guy started shouting profanities in English there was no doubt in my mind that I was home as only English people use the magic, powerful "C" word in such a fashion!

I was extremely happy to bike past Big Ben and to have my photo taken there. It seemed like a perfect photo to end the trip.

I finally arrived at my lovely friend Eduardo 's at about 11 and was greeted with a bunch of flowers :-)

I will be updating my blog over the next few days once I have chilled for a while.

What next? Roast dinners, full English breakfasts, waking up in the morning and knowing where I will sleep that night, baths, girly clothes, cuddles, and spending time with friends and family...

Long term next? India for the winter months and then biking across South America/Asia/Trans-America (probably too easy actually so doubt it)/Elephant ride across India/Sail round the world/Job/Babies/Grow Up Again? Who knows? Answers on a Postcard!

THE END! Thanks to everyone for all of you help and support over the last year or so.

13th Oct - European Space Agency and Party with Rocket Scientists

This trip really has been full of variety! A few days ago I was at a Trade Fair for Erotic Products and today I had lunch and a wonder round the European Space Agency, went to a wine tasting followed by a Party with Rocket Scientists.

I woke up when Andrew was getting ready for work. I was still quiet tired as we had been up chatting till gone 2 and woke up about 7.30. When he had left I tried to get back to sleep again but failed. I was thinking about life the universe and everything at the end of this trip. What to do with the rest of my life?!

I tried to book my ferry to the UK for tomorrow but my bank once again stopped my card. Organising money and phoning banks and phone companies during this last year has been the bane of my life!

Maria and Elise picked me up at 12 to bike for lunch to the European Space Agency. Elise used to work there and Maria's bloke, Chris, works there. It was very nice of them to invite me to go along with them. The weather was sunny and warm in dramatic contrast to yesterday. We had a great ride to - with the sisters keeping me entertained with their "discussions" on the best route to take at every junction.

Martin met us to make sure we could get passes and then we all went in. It is a very impressive building - but looks slightly like the Lego you get when you are a kid! Very bright primary colours. It is like the scientists did not quiet get over the stage in development from being kids where they played with bottles of fairy liquid and elastic bands to try and launch them - bless :-)

The place has about 3000 scientists and the restaurant does not run for profit and so is very reasonable. Most people seem to have 3 course lunches followed by coffee.

I loved the geeky shop in the middle of the centre. This earth is held in the air by magnets.

I managed to find my way back a totally different way than on the way there. It was funny to see signs for Leiden 5km away and then to bike 100m in that direction and then the next sign for 9km to Leiden. I think my route was a rather indirect route.

I went out for a run around the city in the afternoon and then popped into a wine shop to buy a pressy for Andrew. I found out that they were having a free wine tasting this evening. I thought about asking Andrew if he fancied going along early evening.

Andrew got back about 7 and we got tarted up and then off we went.

We had a fab (if rather drunken) time at the wine tasting. There was 25 wines and 4 cheeses with bread.

It was great that the 2 wines I had bought him eariler that evening were 2 of his favourites and Andrew ended up buying a box of each plus a box of white.

What can I stay?

We wondered off to the party latish. It was a great party and lovely to meet loads of Andrew's friends. Nice to be back in the company of geeks! I felt right at home... :-)

Leiden is very beautifully lit up at night. It has lovely architecture.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

12th Oct - Leiden

I woke up when Andrew was getting ready for work and joined him for breakfast.

It was a miserable wet day and I did not feel like going anywhere. There was a market on outside and I really should have gone to have a noisy but Andrew's flat was fantastic to crash in for the day. I had a really hot bath for about 1 and a half hours, a nap, drank lots of coffee and ate him out of house and home (I hope my appetite will decrease soon as I will balloon when I stop cycling if I am not careful - my GPS tracker says I use 8000 calories on a normal day with all the weight I am carrying on the bike, the distances and the altitudes etc).

I planned to update my blog but by the time I had replied to emails to friends and organised what I am doing over the next couple of weeks the day had disappeared and Andrew was home. I had such a lovely day going no where. I felt different relaxing there than I did in most other peoples homes that I have met from Couch Surfing or Warm Showers. Even though people from these organisations are hosting because they want to I always felt indebted to them and felt like I was putting them out. I did not totally relax in their homes (even when they were out) because I worried. Andrew has been inviting me for ages and I really felt like he wanted me there. He already knew what I am like before inviting me.

His flat is cool. It is such a geeky scientist batular pad with everything you could possibly want. A projector, surround sound, sci-fi movies, computers and gadgets as well as a huge bath, a coffee machine and a very comfy sofa bed. I'm also a geek at heart and love that kind of stuff. I could have quiet happily spent a week there and not done much but want to get back to see my friends and family now...

I think I have gone back to the 1990's!

We went out to meet a group of his friends and then for an Italian. There was an interesting mix of people from different countries. Rocket Scientists, Lawyers, Physicists and a teacher (I think). I treated myself to a steak and really enjoyed it even though it was not a great steak.

We had a walk around the town. It is very pretty. The Lion is the Symbol of Leiden.

We were chatting till late. Andrew showed me loads of photos he had take of Iceland. I want to go there now. A lovely relaxed day.