The big ride this year will be the End-to-End of Japan: Cape Sata (in the south) to Cape Soya (in the north). The GoogleMap below is for illustration only, and the journey will be roughly 3000 kms, in the spring and, if timed correctly, I should follow the flowering of the cherry blossom as I move north with the spring. That is the grand plan!
But a BIG REQUEST…….. do you have any contacts in Japan who might be happy to meet me, even offer me a bed for a night? In exchange, perhaps, for an English lesson or merely the opportunity of chatting in English. I could even throw in a ride on my bike…….. 🙂
Let me know. I will be eternally grateful.
As an adventure cyclist myself, I love to read about the adventures of others, both for inspiration and for the caveats thrown up by some of the more outlandish and, in some cases, death-defying journeys people tackle. After reading Into the Remote Places by Ian Hibell, the journeys I have done to date pale into feeble insignificance compared with the following:
- his full-length trek (south to north) of the American continent, crossing the Darien Gap in the process. The Darien gap had never been crossed by anyone on two wheels before. Why? Because it is a swathe of undeveloped swampland in Panama, measuring 100 x 31 miles, that is impenetrable as an overland route. It is the only gap in the Pan American Highway running the length of the continent. Hibell crossed it (along with two New Zealanders) with their loaded bikes.
- he was the first to cycle from North Cape in Norway, to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. This included nearly losing his life in the desert, being pelted with bottles in Nigeria, and facing up to the dangers (both human and animal) of some of the most remote places in the world.
- he crossed South America from Peru to Brazil, risking his life by crossing the great Atrato Swamp, which is so impassable that not a single road has been built to cross from one side to the other. Animal tracks were the only guide.
This book is now out of print, and existing copies are now changing hands at more than 10 times its original cover price. If you can beg, borrow……or even buy a copy, it is well worth reading. Sadly, after decades of taking calculated risks on his expeditions, Ian met his end unexpectedly on August 23rd 2008, at the hands of a hit-and-run driver in Greece. The world lost a true adventurer.
New Zealand End-to-End
I always travel solo on my major expeditions. Many people fail to understand why. As a solo rider, one of the major pleasures of such touring is the interface with people from all walks of life. When you are on your own, it is much easier to reach out and meet people, stop and chat to them, share a meal with them, even accept a bed for the night. All this is not quite so straightforward when riding with others.
But that does not mean that I eschew the company of other cyclists. On long trips, a highlight is to meet another rider who is going in the same direction and share a few miles, hours or even days with them, but without the commitment to stay with them for the duration. On my Canterbury to Rome trip in 2010, I met Filipe from Portugal in Lucca, northern Italy. We stayed together off and on until Rome, but the arrangement was perfect. As two independent travellers, we stayed together only as necessary, and met up in places to stay the night and reminisce over a meal.
I am sure this is going to happen in New Zealand (and later in Australia). In fact I have already ‘buddied’ up with someone in the UK who is doing exactly the same journey, albeit with different dates. His name is Steve Wesson, a business partner in Bike Adventures, a cycling holiday company that offers fully guided and supported adventure rides in various parts of the world. I am sure that this ride is doubling up as a ‘recce’ for his business, as well as being a ride of personal achievement and curiosity.
There is no chance we will meet en route (if we do, something will have gone badly wrong!), but we might see each other the day I fly out of Invecargill, which also happens to be the day he arrives. He will be on a very tight schedule that will burn fat and produce ‘litres’ of lactic acid in his legs, not necessarily because of the speed (as he says), but more because of the very long days in the saddle. My schedule is more relaxed, and will allow me to take diversions and longer meandering routes, if the conditions are right. I have done plenty of 80-100 miles a day stuff in the past. Though I get a lot of pleasure from high daily mileages, I have decided to reduce my expectations in New Zealand to 60-70 miles a day, and create latitude for appreciating some of the places I will pass through. (And one of those places will be the ‘sister-village’ of my own village here in the UK: Kimbolton. The histories of both places are connected…..but more of that in another post).
Steve and I met over the internet, so we are hardly even classed as acquaintances yet, but we have already collaborated extensively over route planning and map sharing, and compared notes on bike weight, luggage capacity, whether to take a tent or not, and a myriad other things. And I am sure it will continue till the day of departure. But if we both keep our respective blogs updated, and post the odd item to Facebook and Twitter, we can be following each other on the road as well.
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