My plan was to navigate myself to Hong Kong using my compass, the advice of strangers and my (ahem) wits. The compass was naturally confused when I turned north upon arrival at Dunkirk to head up to Amsterdam, but that is what happened!
The first leg from Buckingham Palace to Kent was very special, made more so by our departure coinciding with the changing of the guard and receiving a royal send off from the thousands of tourists. The ride was made effortless by Jack’s ‘Columbus-style’ navigating skills, Rian & Alex’s shepherding and the fact it didn’t rain, although certain members could still not make the 34 mile jaunt. Named & shamed:
Anthony Wright (severely hungover & cycling in loafers)
Nick Wright (sore ass & legs)
Robin Jackson (puncture, boo-hoo)
Fiona Clift (cycling on a single-speed granny bike, commendable effort)
Paul Nugent (boris bike)
On Sunday morning Celia and I set off for Dover feeling fresh, clean and ready to conquer the road and conquer we did. After 60 miles of rolling hills, getting lost down country lanes and picking up Phil in Ashford we reached our campsite just outside of Dover and set up camp. I was very excited to use my new & shiny kit, especially the stuff I had no idea how to use. Whilst I was rummaging through my immaculately packed panniers I could here sniggers from Celia & Phil at some of the crap I had brought with me, all part of the learning curve. There are 3 things I learned on that first night:
1. A stove needs fuel in order to light and cook food
2. Always bring Celia & Phil on the first couple of days of any adventure
3. Sheep do not go Baa Baa, they splutter and burp like a drunk grandad. If you have kids, stop feeding them the Baa Baa lie, it’s simply not true!
The following morning we raced down to Dover to catch our ferry across to Europe and the excitement really started to grow, it felt like all my months of non-planning were finally being put into practice and there was no turning back now! The 3 day cycle from Dunkirk – Amsterdam was a real treat with some absolutely stunning scenery crossing Seeland and some truly gigantic bridges and dams. The roads were as flat as I had dreamed of and with gale force winds blowing up our backsides we were cruising at 30 km/h with no real effort, every cyclists dream! I would highly recommend this cycle (in the summer though) and to spend 4/5 days over it eating cake and drinking beer.
The high point would have to be cycling from Middelburg to Stellendam crossing the dams and looking up at the wind socks howling in the exact direction we were travelling, fortune was with us. The low point would be when the rain hit, the wind was biting and all my shiny kit was getting mucky – sob! Celia had her own low point when Phil & I noticed a rather suspect brown patch at the top of her lycra. She claims it was the fact she had no mudguard…..hmmmmm.
I am now in Amsterdam staying with Emile & Francesca who are two of the best hosts I could ask for. I have a day to buy things I should have had from the beginning and chuck out those gadgets that I was suckered into buying, as well as plan my route south to Maastricht then into Germany….who am I kidding, I’m not going to plan, beer please :)
I can never thank Celia & Phil enough for their support over the last 4 days: keeping me company, using their stove & toiletries on the first night and generally being amazing! The Wright Way EAST begins tomorrow morning with Emile riding me out of Amsterdam and my first ever solo camp. Spirits are very high and my body feels like it can dominate anything right now. Wish me luck, I have a feeling I will need it.
P.s. Mum, I’m fine!