Browsed by
Tag: tired

London to Auschwitz: Day 24, Opava, Czech Republic to Katowice, Poland, 105km today, 2180km total

London to Auschwitz: Day 24, Opava, Czech Republic to Katowice, Poland, 105km today, 2180km total

So many miles from home yet I still have exactly the same possessions as I began with. Definitely moments have changed me yet so many things are still the same. I have re-learnt many life lessons from the experiences I’ve had and created opinions on the world and its people.

Perfect weather conditions
Perfect weather conditions

The weather today was perfect. Pure blue skies, very little headwind and not too many hills. Finally I was about to reach the final country of the trip: Poland. But first another reminder that the Red Army passed through here liberating it from the hold of oppressive Nazi reign.

Welcome to Poland!
Welcome to Poland!

Crossing the border I was excited for this final culture with just one more day before reaching Auschwitz, the final destination. The road on the border was immediately better paved. People were also suddenly friendlier and every smile I gave was returned, every wave saw another back. I felt great. However the road didn’t last long. It got worse and worse until it was the most lumpy broken excuse of a road I have ever ridden.

Stopping in the next town I sat in the sun reflecting how far I had come and how many places I had seen. I walked into the adjacent supermarket and something felt familiar. I felt as though I had not left the comfort of the M25. I was in a Tesco and everything was exactly the same. Except for the signage being in a strange accentuated language. I grabbed a familiar Coke bottle and paid through the self checkout in English. The world is such a big place yet sometimes things can be identical across the globe.

Norbert was the closest I could find
Norbert was the closest I could find

Just before reaching my stop in Katowice, a large monument stood for all to observe. Remembering those sacrificed for the liberation of this country. There is interesting symmetry to these memorials around the demarcation line I saw in the Czech Republic which signified where the British and Russian Armies met whilst liberating the land. The only difference of these memorials is the language.

A war memorial from the liberation by the Red Russian Army
A war memorial from the liberation by the Red Russian Army

I lay awake restless last night thinking about the numbers. I have travelled just over 2000km, thats 2,000,000 metres. Two million metres. 6 million Jews were killed in the holocaust. If there was a Jew standing at every metre that I have travelled hard over 24 days then I would have to turn back now, get home and come back again, with a Jew at every metre each way. This magnificent number is so difficult to comprehend. Having achieved such a great distance I can still but imagine this number.

I haven’t even begun to mention the soldiers from all sides as well as civilians.

The beautiful autumnal forests in Poland
The beautiful autumnal forests in Poland

My final day tomorrow will include a guided tour around Auschwitz. I have brought a British flag along the whole route and picked up meaningful tokens too: sand from the beaches of Normandy, dirt from the hills of Verdun, rocks from outside of the Nuremberg trial rooms, gravel from the Flossenberg concentration camp and conkers from the camp at Terezin. I will lay these down next to the main monument at Auschwitz-Birkenau in a moment that I have imagined for weeks.

DAY 25, KATOWICE TO AUSCHWITZ (OŚWIĘCIM) 42KM TODAY, 2222KM TOTAL >>

London to Auschwitz: Day 23, Ústí nad Orlicí to Opava, 140km today, 2075km total

London to Auschwitz: Day 23, Ústí nad Orlicí to Opava, 140km today, 2075km total

Yesterday was a tough day and a long one. I remembered a 10 mile section that stank of manure and the whole area was covered with flies which kept latching onto my legs. You learn to keep your mouth closed in places like this and breathe only through your nose. The people were so miserable throughout the whole day and it really was quite painful with the strong headwind. It was all just rubbish.

But somehow when I reached the hostel for the night I was fine, everything felt good. The long and tiring day which made me want to throw the bike away and get on the next train was over. Somehow the memory of the pain had fallen away. I felt good and the suffering was forgotten. I was living life at that moment in the evening and everything was great.

Two small deer ran across the field ahead whilst climbing one of the hills
Two small deer ran across the field ahead whilst climbing one of the hills

However today also started badly. There was something wrong with the bike. I stopped to oil the chain and pump up the tyres by the side of the road, but back on the bike, my speed was still cripplingly slow. I had somehow destroyed all the muscles in my legs and I was just unable to pedal anymore. I spent a good 2 hours at this 12kmph speed (7.5mph – not that much faster than walking). I figured I just had to press on and knock off as many miles as I could.

I was in a lot of pain both physically and mentally. I had a long way to go and my legs were having none of it. I tried to stand up and push harder, but I couldn’t sustain it for more than a minute – maximum.

Suddenly it became clear what was wrong with the bike and my legs. I reached the crest of a hill. I had been climbing a gradient for several hours, but was unable to tell by the landscape as it was consistent and continuous. I was so relieved to suddenly be zooming at about 50kmph downhill without pedaling for almost 30 minutes before stopping to buy many more energy bars.

The roads had a lot of switch backs like this!
The roads had a lot of switch backs like this!

Alas the hills didn’t stop. Suddenly I found my speed was back to the snail pace of earlier in the day. I was climbing again but this time I knew it. I spent about 2 hours and 20 kilometers doing nothing but slowly climb through the trees on a lonesome road. Pulling into a parking area, I sat on the grass verge with my head hanging low. I wasn’t at the top, it was endless.

I was not enjoying myself. I was not happy. I contemplated why I was doing this. Surely I could have just driven here? Or taken my motorbike? Or even taken the train, or better yet flown? The whole motivation of the trip crumbled away in my mind. What was the point? Why should I be on my pushbike suffering like this? I was mentally defeated. I tried to motivate myself back up by thinking about the pain I had overcome just yesterday. Surely it will all be better once I get there? Thinking about my original keenness I had for the trip and remembering of the highlights so far, I managed to pick myself up and get back on the bike.

Eventually I reached the top to find myself not needing to pedal much for a good 30 kilometres. The sun came out and I was singing again.

Sunset on the open road
Sunset on the open road

When I first arrived in Germany a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t know what to expect in terms of cycling. The roads were perfectly smooth and the drivers a lot more courteous. Now I have been in the Czech Republic for almost a week; the first couple of days I was incredibly frustrated at the quality of the roads, despite them not being that different from English roads I’m used to. I was just used to the smooth German roads and it was annoying to be back on the bumpy broken tarmac. Today, however, the roads were the worst they have ever been but I was expecting it, I didn’t even think about complaining.

My point is that we, as humans, get used to things. Whether they be the quality of the road, perhaps living with your parents at home and having a full fridge, or just always having loved ones around you to support you. Putting yourself in a situation where you don’t have these things is tough. Unfamiliarity is difficult. This is a lesson I personally learn again and again, and of course humanity learns it over and over.

There are so many analogies that you can create from familiarity: having a loved one pass away, moving to a new town perhaps for university, if you live in the South of The United States of America then it might be rare to encounter a homosexual. These things might be tough at first, yet somehow we can get used to them.

I have had uncontrollable emotional responses throughout this trip – both good and bad. When rationalised, I could overcome the challenging ones, but it wasn’t easy.

I have tried to relate these human feelings to the World Wars: I imagine that if you are used to fighting all day it becomes strangely normal. If you are an SS guard then perhaps seeing and inflicting suffering unfortunately becomes normality. From some accounts I have read, people in concentration camps manage to put aside the poor treatment and take pleasure in other small things.

We are all adaptable creatures but remember there are always limits. If you are a good person then there is only so much pain you can inflict on others; if you are being tortured there are limits to how much you can take before you give up. Regular evaluation is always valuable to work out whether these limits have been reached – but you need to push through the limits to know where they are. Mine was probably a few days ago but it’s valuable that I now know that.

I have just a couple of days left of this trip. I have had to overcome low points of pain but lived some incredible highs (probably endorphin related!). The lessons learnt from this trip don’t have to just be in regard to a physical challenge, but they can relate to any challenge. Whether it be a project at work, a personal project, completing a course or just reading a book. Something that you know is good for you but sometimes hard to get up and do. I hope that you reading this can relate it to something in your life and hopefully this can spur you on to do something you know you should do, but it’s just difficult right now.

Get up. Do it. Be happy.

DAY 24, OPAVA, CZECH REPUBLIC TO KATOWICE, POLAND, 105KM TODAY, 2180KM TOTAL >>

London to Auschwitz: Day 19, Pilsen to Prague, 95km today, 1780km total

London to Auschwitz: Day 19, Pilsen to Prague, 95km today, 1780km total

Another emotional day as I reached a very significant milestone in the journey following the liberation path.

I have gone past the place where the allied forces met in the middle – the “anti-fascist coalition” as the monument recalls. The US Army and the Red Army met between the town of Borek and Rokycany. It was a very moving spot to reflect at because this signifies the end of the fighting journey for the troops. Now there was just a big mess to sort out.

I have come a long way. The furthest cycle trip I have ever done and it has taken weeks to get here. But I have travelled a similar physical journey to what a lot of the allies would have travelled from the D-Day landings in June 1944 to the declaration of peace in September 1945.

A demarcation line where the Americans met the Russians.
A demarcation line where the Americans met the Russians.

I was reminded by many more memorials that a lot of liberation occurred on this route; these markers hadn’t been seen in Germany but were abundant in France almost 2 weeks ago. They have a strangely uplifting feeling when I cycle past them or stop to reflect next to them. Each time I pass one I feel better about my trip and it gives me a boost of positive energy.

A memorial to thank the liberators of a town just outside Pilsen in May 1945
A memorial to thank the liberators of a town just outside Pilsen in May 1945

Another memorial was in Czech, but I have looked up the meaning which refers to Josef Molák. He was a significant member of a resistance group that was shot by the Nazi Gestapo in 1943.

Josefa Moláka was part of a resistance movement and was shot here in 1943
Josef Molák was part of a resistance movement and was shot here in 1943

A common thing to think about is what would I have done at the time. If I was free and not persecuted then would I be a member of or even lead a resistance group? What if, as was the case, anyone who had any known affiliation with anything that didn’t “fit” the Nazi regime is thrown into a camp or killed just like Josef was? Would I still have the chutzpah to put my life on the line for others? I certainly believe I would. This memorial helps me to remember and thank all the resistance members for their efforts that were critical to the liberation.

As I cycled alone over the remaining hills towards Prague I began to think: what would have happened if I was sent to a forced labour camp because of being Jewish? I am fit and healthy so would be made to work, but would I be fit and healthy enough to stay alive? I know from this trip I need a good amount of food and decent sleep and I can get very emotionally weak especially at times of fatigue. I’m always impressed with any survivors I meet, they always have incredible and inspiring determination.

The bridge into Prague
The bridge into Prague

Finally reaching Prague I was glad to see the familiar faces of my Mum and my friend David; having been alone for a few weeks this is a nice comfort. Especially since the language has changed again to something I can’t even relate to! I am very interested for tomorrow’s visit to another camp, especially with my Mum and David who haven’t been to any of the camps before.

DAY 20: REST DAY IN PRAGUE TO VISIT TEREZIN CONCENTRATION CAMP >>

London to Auschwitz: Day 17, Nürnberg to Weiden, 100km today, 1570km total

London to Auschwitz: Day 17, Nürnberg to Weiden, 100km today, 1570km total

Today involved a lot of rain, un-sympathetic people, a rear wheel puncture and not being able to find a place to stay with wifi!

Ingenious ways to try to dry my clothes (and fail)
Ingenious ways to try to dry my clothes (and fail)

I found a lot of my clothes were still damp despite my efforts to dry them with the room’s air-con system. Without any sign in the sky of rain I set off slightly moist.

I first visited the rally arena where Hitler address many of his supporters in Nürnberg. The vast size of the place was incredible although now it appeared abandoned with graffiti all over (my favourite displaying: “Fuck Nazis”).

Where the soldiers and supporters would have gathered, there are now fields with football posts. The whole thing looked out of place in the modern town but served as a reminder of where Hitler gave his speeches. Next door was a “Documentation Centre” which holds a lot of documents from the Nazi regime. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to explore, although with the crap day that I’ve had I wish I did now!

The ominous looking platform where Hitler addressed his Nazi supporters
The ominous looking platform where Hitler addressed his Nazi supporters

Heading off out of town the clouds started to close in on me. It wasn’t long before they caught me and drenched me through again. This time with a side wind to make sure my right cheek would feel the full force as I slowly crossed more fields and forest tracks.

After about two hours in the soaked saddle I needed a break and so pulled in to the side of the road. I rested my bike on the wall and hid from the rain underneath the balconies from the floors above. An older lady from the garden adjacent came running up to me yelling “Nitzch! Nitzch!” (or words and gestures to that effect). I was confused standing there holding an apple sheltering from the rain from the rain. She ran up to my bike and pointed at my pannier bags. I said in a proud English voice “I am English and have cycled here from London!” expecting her to be impressed. She looked me in the eye with anger and yelled “NITZCH!”. She then tried to rip my bike off from the wall (apparently it was the bike leaning against her wall that was offending her) but the weight of the bags held the bike down so she couldn’t actually move it. To be fair the bike was soaking and the frame and I were quite muddy too, but this was an outside wall where it was raining! Was she scared of a bit of mud from my bike? I pulled the bike off the wall and discovered not even a wet patch. I showed her this with a smile but she was not impressed.

Still smiling I tried to ask if she spoke any English. “NITZCH!” she said in disgust and walked away. I couldn’t believe that I had been this offensive and was saddened that I have been met with unfriendly encounters like this here in the Bavaria part of Germany. Thoughts went through my mind whilst riding on through the hills and rain. What should I have done or said to make the whole event less painful? I still don’t know.

Cool statue - anyone know what it says?
Cool statue – anyone know what it says?

I finally pulled up to the next town where I planned to stop for some warmth and nutrition. I saw a bright yellow sign and pulled in to the “Teppan King” asian restaurant. The restaurant had a huge hallway and I rested my bike in between the door frame as I took a moment to shelter from the rain and try to dry off.

An older asian man came running up to me yelling. What have I done now? I know I’m wet but I’ve not even come inside! I hadn’t realised my front wheel was just over the front door and a small amount of water had formed a puddle just inside his hallway. He screamed at me to take my bike out. Having reflected from the incident before I calmly tried to neutralise this situation by again introducing myself in English. However he snapped back at me: “I don’t care if you are English, look at my floor!”

I remarked that it was just a bit of water and would easily be mopped up – in fact I could do it once I dry off! He stormed off angry. Just moments later he came back with a mop and aggressively passed over the puddle I had caused. One sweep and it had disappeared. I smiled with excitement that my unintentional mess was indeed temporary. But the man kept mopping, the whole hallway in fact, even places I hadn’t been, and then behind the sofa! As if I might have snuck some dirt around there and ruined the atmosphere for his empty restaurant. He angrily looked at me when I finished and he walked back inside.

Reflecting from thoughts of why and how the Holocaust happened I have been trying to work out if better education and experience could have prevented the events. After these two rude encounters today it was reinforced to me that you can’t change the world in a day.

I realised that I could reach the concentration camp of Flossenburg but would be uncomfortably wet to walk around; therefore I decided to delay until tomorrow morning bright and early (after a conference call from the McDonalds’s wifi!).

Fixing my puncture
Fixing my puncture

Coming into the final town I got my first puncture of the trip. Composing myself still in the pouring rain I took the wheel off and replaced the inner tube without too much hassle. The wheel was fine for the 5km further to the bunk house.

DAY 18, WEIDEN, GERMANY TO PILSEN, CZECH REPUBLIC, 115KM TODAY, 1685KM TOTAL >>

London to Auschwitz: Day 14, Frankfurt to Aschaffenburg 45km today 1295km total

London to Auschwitz: Day 14, Frankfurt to Aschaffenburg 45km today 1295km total

I have now completed two weeks on the road with my bike. With me I have two (unnecessarily heavy) bags containing some warm and dry clothes, toiletries, laptop and bunch of cables to charge my iPod and camera. I have met lots of people along the way, but, like a cab driver or delivery man, I have actually been with only myself the whole time.

The journey is from London along a WWII liberation path starting at Westminster, to Poole in England, over to Normandy in France, down to Paris, along to Luxembourg, across Germany and finally ending at the most famous concentration camp from World War II: Auschwitz in Poland. I am just over half way through in terms of physical distance and nowhere near completing my emotional journey as there are still three camps to visit, including ending at Auschwitz.

In total I have spent every day but one cycling; that rest day involved a lot of walking around Paris and seeing museums and art exhibitions.

I am exhausted. Physically exhausted. I have had some great ups and some tough emotional reflection. But now I am just tired.

Throughout the trip I have tried to imagine climbing the cliff faces of Normandy to destroy the large Nazi stronghold at Pointe du Hoc. I looked down the Champs-Elysées as Hitler did when he invaded Paris, and as Charles de Gaulle did when he finally made it back for the liberation. I have been through the forests of Verdun which was a region of death and destruction during World War I. I pushed on through to Luxembourg, which has always been technically neutral, but was an early invasion point for Germany. I am now half-way through crossing Germany feeling a strange sense of accomplishment having come so far; but 14 days living out of a small bike bag is wearing on me. And I have another 14 days on the road. Really I am only half way.

I know that I am very sheltered; part of this trip is to take me out of that comfort zone. In order to continue working on my software projects I have not been camping but instead staying at small hotels/bed and breakfasts/friend’s flats; all with hot showers and freshly cooked food. This gives me a structured base before heading off on a daily cycling adventure, never to return to the same location.

My mind is now turning to the concentration camps; I think about the detailed torture the Nazi regime enforced on many groups, especially on my Jewish people. The atrocities are unthinkable, and even the little things stick with me.

Little things that are of such irrelevance to the big picture I shouldn’t even mention them. In my sheltered existence these little things would be life shattering for me, especially on this exhausting journey. I read “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl who was a survivor of Auschwitz. One thing that I keep thinking about is not having coffee. I don’t drink a lot of coffee but on this trip it has been essential. To keep my energy levels up and ensure my mind is sharp on the roads for two weeks solid I have had to have at least one cup each day. I cannot currently imagine getting by without it. It is such a small issue but yet so significant to my everyday life.

Viktor paints a picture that you would be amazed at what stresses humans can go through and still be ok. Humans are adaptable and strong creatures. Yet I still feel dependent on coffee, I still desire a warm shower after cycling all day, the internet is essential to my life, and it is frustrating without a comfortable bed. It’s not even winter here yet I am so thankful for the shelter from the cold. Even GPS to make the travel part easier, not to mention video calls and emails to make me feel just around the corner from my loved ones.

Trying to understand what the soldiers went through is extremely difficult. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a very serious issue and I cannot try and comprehend it. Exposed to so much crap through stories is hard enough for me; but living it I can’t begin to imagine. Especially whilst I sit in my warm hotel room, eating fresh Vietnamese beef and noodles, on my laptop talking to friends from home.

Moving from soldiers to concentration camp prisoners is a completely new chapter. Coffee is just one small thing that I can’t think of living without. There are so many other small things that would upset me tomorrow if I didn’t have them. Clean clothes being one of them and I am sure everyone reading this is the same.

It’s important to value the small things in life and remember that things could always be worse…

DAY 15, ASCHAFFENBURG TO WÜRZBURG 75KM TODAY 1370KM TOTAL >>

London to Auschwitz: Day 13, Engleheim to Frankfurt 50km today 1250km total

London to Auschwitz: Day 13, Engleheim to Frankfurt 50km today 1250km total

Today was a very relaxed day. Only needing to complete 50km before my friend Mathias got off work at 1900 led to a chilled pace on the bike. Waking up at 6am I saw the weather forecast updated from being an absolute downpour expected when I went to sleep, to no rain at all for the entire day! I decided a lie in would be acceptable and went back to sleep relieved.

Yesterday was very reflective and yet filled with extreme happiness. Perhaps I have an endorphin addiction (in fact a few of my friends say I do) and that kicked it all off; or perhaps it was a real experience. Either way, today involved a slight come down from it all. I had expected heavy rain and was ready for it last night; this morning’s forecast caused a complete change of mental state expecting it to be completely clear. Feeling great I set off wearing more than sufficient clothing to stay warm. Then the heavens opened and it started raining cats and dogs; within an hour of setting off I was drenched to the bone, leaving me feeling a bit crap.

Rain isn’t really an issue by itself. When you exercise in the rain you stay warm (think football or rugby); also things dry out and no worry about my possessions locked away in waterproof bags; as long as you don’t sit in wet clothes for an extended period it is absolutely fine for your body. However there are still a few issues whilst cycling:

1) Brakes don’t work so well which can be an issue if you ever need to stop.
2) Manhole covers, painted road markings and of course the many tram lines in Frankfurt all become very very slippery. In fact Loren (my American friend) managed to fall off his bike on one of these very tram lines and scrape his whole leg.
3) When travelling fast you get a big line of water (or in my case mud) up your back. It also comes off the front wheel to hit you in your face: so it’s difficult to see.

These things lead to quite an unpleasant experience even when prepared for it. Nonetheless I shall not be broken!

An eagle statue overlooks the oncoming clouds on top of a vineyard
An eagle statue overlooks the oncoming clouds on top of a vineyard

After reaching Mainz I stopped for a cappuccino at a busy breakfast bar. I managed to sit next to a lady who told me she met an Englishman who had cycled through her town a month ago. He was from London and on his way to Istanbul (she said he was called Jake M…). I wonder how many conversations like this are missed because we sit one seat over or go to a different breakfast place.

Continuing on in the rain I shortly arrived at the skyscraper filled Frankfurt and immediately met heavy traffic. Snaking my way through the cars I narrowly avoided several close calls on the slippery tram lines by regaining control of the rear of the bike. Eventually I reached a cafe where I would immediately disrobe and put on all new dry clothes stored away in my panniers.

I then met Mathias at his apartment; after a quick shower we headed out for a traditional Frankfurt meal. Applwoy is a cider like drink that is a little sour. Normally mixed with Fanta, or in our case fizzy water, we took a 5x300ml jug (1.5L for those who can’t math). This accompanied our Frankfurt schnitzel with special herb and cheese sauce which I inhaled.

Applwoi and Mathias in Frankfurt
Applwoi and Mathias in Frankfurt

Mathias is a friend of a friend who I only met today; however it is extremely nice to meet someone so friendly and hospitable. Travelling alone is difficult when in a different place each night, but this was a great change of routine. We got on really well and because he has a rugby match in the morning we can both get a much needed early night. Interactions like this make travelling worthwhile!

DAY 14, FRANKFURT TO ASCHAFFENBURG 45KM TODAY 1295KM TOTAL >>

London to Auschwitz: Day 9, Châteaux Thierry to Sainte-Menehould, 135km today, 885km total

London to Auschwitz: Day 9, Châteaux Thierry to Sainte-Menehould, 135km today, 885km total

I slept quite well despite some snoring from one of the Americans! Having eaten all of my sweets before bed-time, this made for some interesting dreams… One of the less weird but more enjoyable ones was of cycling through some great sunshine and I woke up excited to hit the warm road. However, when I looked outside I realised it was only a dream…

A misty morning to wake up to
A misty morning to wake up to

After taking our time to wake up, we wandered down to breakfast. Eric and Loren, who I met the previous evening, had spent nearly 3 weeks on their bikes between Zurich, Munich and Luxembourg and were just a couple of days from their final destination of Paris. However, I was now in a group; and multiple people is always slower than being alone. Eventually we went off our separate ways and I was glad to have spent the evening with them for the company and fun stories (also we all shared a room to reduce our costs).

Eric, Me and Loren
Eric, Me and Loren

The mist rolling in off the hills hampered visibility to just tens of metres; the first couple of hours involved undulating hills – rising slightly as I was heading upstream. Not being able to see much was demoralising and the hills just kept rolling on. Eventually the sun burnt through the mist and an upbeat U2 song came on my iPod at just the right time to attack an oncoming gradient. I felt great. About 30 seconds into the climb I looked to the left over the fantastic hills of vineyards which make the world’s best champagne. Then, glancing to the right, I could see a much more barren field. This was a World War 1 French cemetery which I had stumbled upon. I paused the music; climbed off the bike; and wandered into the openly accessible field.

French World War 1 Cemetery
French World War 1 Cemetery

This was much bigger than the one in Desir that I passed between Caen and Paris. I calculated roughly that there must have been about one thousand headstones. Reading the names I realised that each cross (or differently shaped) headstone was back to back with another. This meant there were twice as many as I’d first thought: two thousand people were remembered here.

Double backed headstones
Double backed headstones

The afternoon saw the clouds fold over and the return of a sharp headwind. It was a Monday, so of course all the shops were closed (bienvenue en France). I couldn’t eat enough to keep my energy levels up. I stopped for another double espresso to boost my morale, but quickly slipped back into a tired mental state. Riding solo I’m sure didn’t help, company would’ve been a comfort, but no-one was around in these tiny hamlets. The mood was summarised by the surrounding dull brown fields, with some extremely depressed looking sunflowers.

Really sad sunflowers
Really sad sunflowers

With a lack of food and a significant amount of cycling today I was seriously undernourished. I needed far more calories than I had taken in and I knew it. When reaching the town that I was going to spend the night in, I headed straight for a fast food place to replenish my depleted energy supplies. A cheap kebab shop offered a 6 Euro meal deal. I got two. Pretty satisfied I managed to get to the the supermarket before it closed and stock up on supplies so this won’t happen again tomorrow.

One of the two kebabs I had for dinner
One of the two kebabs I had for dinner

Because of the flexibility of the trip and having had a particularly hard day today, I am changing my schedule to have a much easier day tomorrow and spend some time around Verdun, a significant battleground of World War 1. I will forgo a rest day in Luxembourg City to keep up with the 4 week plan.

The bed I am currently in feels like the most comfortable thing I have ever experienced. But then again maybe it’s just the fatigue.

DAY 10, SAINTE-MENEHOULD TO ESCH-SUR-ALZETTE, LUXEMBOURG, 115KM TODAY, 1000KM TOTAL >>

Cycle from London to Penzance

Cycle from London to Penzance

I spent 3 days, starting on Thursday last week, cycling just over 310 miles from London to Penzance. Planning to spend two nights in random hostels or B&Bs on the way; I planned to grab the last train back from Penzance into London Paddington leaving at 1740 on Saturday.

Cycle to Penzance
Cycling with my new friend Paul

Originally I wanted to visit Stonehenge for the first time and it is a convenient 100 miles from home. Then I thought why not push it down to Penzance for a bit more of an adventure.

The weather forecast showed Thursday as being brilliant in the 20s but Friday and Saturday being complete downpours. With the anticipation of doing another long distance ride (like London to Barcelona a few years ago) I wanted to push through the wet and even carry my laptop to see how reasonable it would be to have that on the road. Turns out having a big heavy laptop is the opposite of ideal and I re-learnt the same lessons from the Barcelona ride – the less you can take the better.

Therefore for my next long ride I will take a spare change of clothes for the evenings, toiletries and some cables to charge phone/camera. That is all. Anything else you just don’t need but the weight seriously hinders you on big hills.

Stone Henge
Stonehenge

Having reached the 100 mile goal to Stone Henge (where you have to pay £8 entry) on some fairly flat roads by about 3PM, I pushed on for another 22 miles with a commuting cyclist I bumped into (Paul) – the only cyclist of the day I met! Finding a rather cosy pub (The Somerset Arms – run by new owners Tim and Dee) I settled in for a nice hot meal and a warm evening sitting in their garden.

Starting on a cold and misty Friday morning at 6am I got on with my target of 100 miles for day 2 to make the last day just 80 at most. Having got lost several times, trying to avoid the A303’s scary dual carriageway, I found myself climbing a lot of short hills, only to come straight down the other side and immediately climb another. This continued for the whole morning giving me an astonishingly slow pace which made me question whether reaching Penzance, especially with these heavy bags, would be reasonable in my target of 3 days.

Fortunately there wasn’t the torrential downpours that the MET office predicted, which made me feel a nice sense of satisfaction as I passed their headquarters in Exeter in the early afternoon. My friend Daniel (who I cycled to Paris with recently) did a summer placement in Exeter last year and warned me of the ridiculous hills to come in Dartmoor. This time I was prepared for the hills, knowing I just needed to keep the legs turning and eventually (maybe) I would get to the top and could relax. After 6 miles of climbing and some nice descent I came to the final short 20% gradient climb into Moretonhampstead; with 2 hours of sunlight left and about 15 miles short of my 100 mile target I decided to push on – despite immense fatigue. Shoveling down chocolate, haribo and Mountain Dew; I just didn’t want to have to do these climbs the following morning when I had a train to catch!

Strong calves
Strong calves

I finally came to Princetown, which I later found to be one of the highest villages in England meaning lots of downhill the following day! They also had a large prison close to the hostel I was staying in which was a surprise to see getting over the last hill.

After a ridiculous amount of ribs I called it a night ready for my final day. Approximately 85 miles to go by 5pm.

Ribs!
Ribs!

I had a terrible night sleep in the bunk beds but had to get on with my final day if I wanted to make my train. By 630AM I was on the road again hitting even steeper longer hills than I had experienced the day before. Again my speed in the morning was slow and I seriously doubted making it. Morale was at an all time low when the rain began to pour down. This was all ahead of the serious thunderstorm warnings that afternoon. I couldn’t do much so chuckled to myself in the traditional British sense. I knew I had to press on through it. Thankfully it let up after half an hour and the sun same out to dry me off and warm me up.

 

Bad forecast for the last day
Bad forecast for the last day
Sad Bike
Sad Bike

The final push through Cornwall was nice and easy compared to the Moors. However a couple of local cyclists warned me of some serious hills on my way to Penzance (which never showed up). They obviously hadn’t been to the Moors! So much so that I got the second last train of the day to get into London for a reasonable time for a nice big dinner! Very excited to see St. Michael’s Mount and a great sense of achievement given so much doubt over the previous few days.

St Michales Mount
St Michales Mount
Penzance
Penzance

On the train home I met a man called Sammy who just completed John O’Groats to Lands end in just over 8 days. Having completed several challenges (e.g. walking across the whole of Spain and I believe a sail across the Atlantic) he was inspiring with his “why not?” attitude to adventures. We both agreed that carrying the least amount of weight is paramount to enjoying any sort of long distance trip.

Sunday was a big recovery day – despite naturally waking up at 630 and not being able to get back to sleep. But the endorphin kick was nice at energising despite most of my body aching.

 

I took a fair bit of footage on my GoPro and hope to get the time to turn it into a small montage soon.

Until the next adventure!