I’m now about a third of my way back home to my destination of Sydney, and have reached over ten thousand on the odometer. Over the past few months, each time I have ridden a new thousand, I have bundled out my camera from the handlebar bag and taken a quick snap by the roadside. The images have led to a predictable mix, depending mainly on the terrain and my mood. As you will read, it has provided a moment of triumph in often adverse weather conditions.
I reached my first thousand just before the town of Lydd in England, along the South Downs Cycleway. The weather was just awful; my camera lens had even fogged up in the atrocious weather. I had woken just an hour before to a tent imploding in the strong winds (which in England always managed to be a headwind, no matter what direction I rode). I had arranged a WarmShowers stay in Dover in the evening, and keen to arrive to both shelter and a hot shower I took this quick snap and frantically pushed on.
I came to 2000 near the gorgeous Belgium town of Houffalize. The camera tripod here rests precariously on the wall of yet another cemetery. During the day I had ridden in the north of Luxembourg into the Belgium city of Bastogne. The region was devastated during The Second World War’s Battle of the Bulge. To celebrate the 2000 milestone, as well as reflect on the tragic events of the war, I enjoyed a rare bottle of Leffe and banana cinnamon sandwiches for dinner.
At 3000km a blurry-eyed cyclist is struggling to find a riding rhythm on the German Danish border. To help boost my energy I did a mammoth food shop in Niebull, after which Wilson could hardly move! That night I would sleep in an organic farm in Denmark and witness the bizarre American Line Dancing Festival in Skaerbaek.
Norwegian tunnels; a sight I would soon get very acquainted with. At 4000km I was northwest of Oslo, pushing on towards the famous mountains and fjords of Norway’s coast. Just ten kilometres earlier I had sneaked out of my stealth camping position next to a strange Viking tent.
A sight for sore eyes! Five thousand kilometres and the start of my race against Jon to the Arctic Circle. I had worryingly discovered my first case of ‘saddle sores’ in the morning, and just to sit on this bench proved achingly difficult. Ten hours later, as I rode late into the evening, I would glance up a valley and spot a wild bear.
I joined Michael and Peter inside The Arctic in the north of Sweden, and together we joined forces to ride to Finland. We reached the thousand at the top of a tough climb, and to celebrate we made the most of it by scribbling 6000 on my arm while taking care not to swallow my odometer! Spirits were high as we descended to the Swedish Coast for our ferry across The Baltic. It was the first time I had shared the road on the trip, and thoroughly enjoyed having both the company and Peter’s cooking skills.
On the outskirts of Estonia’s Tartu I reached 7000 kilometres. I felt like absolute shit, and am here forcing a smile under the sign of my upcoming destinations. I cursed the road this day. I was on the EuroVelo 11 route from The North Cape to Athens, and true to the cycleway my thoughts were lost in the adventurous north and the ancient Athenian Empire. Thankfully such gloominess didn’t stay with me in The Baltic States. It’s by experiencing such lows that I’ve come to learn the most about myself on this trip…
Buzzing! The previous night I met two Parisian cycle tourers in the Polish town of Ogrodniki. As Quentin and Artus travel without a tent, we slept on the veranda of an abandoned house. In the image, as the fellas hold the camera, I was beginning my detour westwards a few hundred kilometres to Hitler’s wartime bunker. My historical zigzagging throughout Europe has created a somewhat outlandish route through the continent.
At 9000 kilometres I was riding through Moravia in the east of Czech Republic, and wondering what to do when I run out of fingers for my thousand photographs! The terrain was tough work throughout the region, and my GPS route kept taking me up every hill despite flat valleys below me. It was frustrating work, but the frequent castles and rapid descents through farming villages kept me going towards Prague.
9, 999 and 10, 000
Again anxious to see if my odometer will handle an additional digit, my newly acquired Australian mascot was happy to step in and do the honours at reaching 9999. One kilometre later I reached the centre of Gyor, where I celebrated by including cheese in my pasta meal (although most of that went to a homeless bloke). The next day I would continue on the Hungarian stretch of the Danube Cycleway towards Budapest, where my proper reward would be enjoyed inside the beautiful art nouveau Gellert Thermal Baths.