IT was just one year ago that we were standing nervously in Brisbane’s International Airport surrounded by our equally nervous family. Crunch time had come, months of preparation had lead to this moment and while I was terrified at what lay ahead (travelling the world by bicycle) I was still starry eyed.
In my head, the years to come would be filled with relaxed trundles down flower-framed country lanes, decadent and exotic feasts in the company of warm and hospitable locals and a feeling of peace, freedom and self possession.
My worries would evaporate the minute my feet hit the peddles, my insecurities and doubts would vanish as life on the road turned me into a tough but worldly traveller and life would be bountiful in action-packed experiences. It’s now 12 months later and like all good fantasies mine was about as close to the truth as a politician’s election promises.
I can count the number of flat, flower laced country paths on one hand (likewise with the decadent feasts thanks to our pitiful budget), I’m just as full of doubts as I was one year ago and so far action-packed experiences have all been of the exceedingly wet, steep and windy kind. We’ve slogged our way up never-ending mountains, worn every layer of clothing in our possession while huddled in the tent on a freezing winter’s night in Germany and day dreamed about home and family far more than we’re willing to admit.
We’ve pushed our bodies harder than ever before and all with a big fat frown on our faces while swearing like drunken sailors and wishing fervently for a cup of hot, strong tea and a warm bed. But despite a tough, tough slog it’s one year in and yep, we’re still loving it. We might have sworn our way up every steep climb from Scotland to Greece but at the top we’ve privately smiled and felt ridiculously chuffed at our achievements.
We’ve spent more than a handful of days stretched out on sun drenched beaches or tucked up in a warm bed thanks to a kind stranger. We can count the number of times we’ve gotten up earlier than 7am (the average is 8am) and while it’s minute, we’ve become just a little more relaxed, a little less stressed and a fair bit happier.
So here it is: our 12 hard truths from 12 months
Hardest moment: There’s been many, but for Sarah, it was scaling the first of three passes through the High Atlas Mountains (knowing there was still two to go). For Scott it was the 80km leg from Lucern to Interlaken in Switzerland including scaling the Brunig Pass. And for both of us there’s random days when we just think we can’t go on, our legs are burning and no matter the terrain, it’s a bloody battle.
Best moment: For both Sarah and Scott – reaching the third and final pass of the High Atlas Mountains and knowing it was downhill from there! Meeting new friends, receiving hospitality off random strangers and just all days off come a close second.
Favourite meals: For both, chicken couscous in Tangier, Napoli pizza in Naples, savoury crepes in Paris, a full English breakfast with fried toast in Bath, England (Scott), a Greek meze platter in Athens.
Favourite places: London (England), Edinburgh (Scotland), Galway – and the whole west coast (Ireland), Tuscany (Italy), Florence (Italy), Rome (Italy), Seville (Spain), Barcelona (Spain) and the Sahara Desert (Morocco).
Least favourite places: Newport (Wales), Reading (England), Naples (Italy)
Biggest day cycled: 115km (Spain, coast road between Barcelona and Valencia)
Smallest day cycled: 20km (don’t ask)
Scariest moment: Cycling through Naples, being chased by dogs and stone throwing children in Morocco.
Most random wild camping location: Military compound, in-between Marrakech and Demnate in Morocco.
Highest altitude cycled: 2200 metres (High Atlas Mountains, Morocco)
Best stack (Sarah): Flying down the first pass of the High Atlas she took her eyes off the road to check out the scenery and hit a rock the size of her head causing her to fly over the handle bars.
Best stack (Scott): Cycling on a slippery road in Holland he attempted to jump a gutter and slid out, managing to land on his feet.