Wednesday, 21 September 2011

It's Oh So Quiet

Sorry about the silence but since the last blog entry, somewhere around Lisbon at the end of August, things got a little bit hectic. For a start I had to race down to Gibraltar as I desperately needed to pay nearly twice as much for a pint in a duty-free country as in its non-duty-free neighbour, but mostly because I wanted a photograph of my bike with some monkeys climbing on it. Oh, and it's a capital.

Then there was the murderous traffic and non-existent shoulders of Spain's almost entirely flat N-340, lovingly known as the Road of Death. This links Gibraltar to Nerja, my final destination for 2011. As I had no desire to get squished, I had to take a massive detour inland, going from sea level up and over the 1100 metre pass near Ronda, adding more miles to my journey than I care to calculate. Nice scenery though.

But I did it. I arrived in Nerja. And on the last day, my old mountain walking pal, Boz, joined me for the final leg before kicking off the first of many celebratory drinking sessions.

This was followed by seven days in Majorca, playing with telescopes and spectrographs and a daily quota of three hours' sleep. Just like the Nottingham residential back in July, it was another fantastic week. It was harder work, with longer working sessions and no laid on entertainment, but it was full of equally great fellow OU students and climaxed with an utterly brilliant student-organised beach party. Toilet facilities were limited but there was always the Med.

But this is the end of the ride, for 2011 at least. Although I've still to calculate a more accurate figure, I've completed somewhere in the region of 9,000 arse-busting kilometres, visited seventeen countries and sixteen capitals (I'll do Madrid next year) and eaten lungs, spleens, intestines, stomach linings, eels, horse and marmots. I've paid one euro for a pint, met a woman who's climbed Everest twice, been called a tramp by a Christian, spoken bits of ten languages and met some of the nicest people in the world. This has been the best year of my life.

I've spoken to a lot of people about this ride. Many of them have said that they'd love to do something like this, not necessarily cycling but a big adventure. If you're one of those people, please go and do it. If you can't afford to do it yet, work out a plan so that you can. Eventually you will get ill, or old, or worse, and then you won't be able to do it. Do it now. Or plan it now and do it very soon.

For now, I'm taking a break. Not an actual relaxing break - I still need to write up a report for the astronomy residential, revise for my maths exam in mid-October, finish a 20,000 word philosophy dissertation before the New Year, learn as much Italian, Greek and Turkish as possible for next year, revise the Greek alphabet and learn the Cyrillic one, and train for a half-marathon or possibly a marathon in March as a way to keep the weight off over winter. But I'll take a break from this blog.

Action will resume some time in early 2012 while I prepare for the kick off of Year Two, a trip even more exciting than 2011's, with visits to central Turkey, a short excursion avoiding bears and landmines in Kosovo and experimenting with even more foreign languages in forgotten corners of forgotten lands like Albania. So please come back. I'll still be blogging occasionally for the OU on their Platform site (with links from the UniCycle50 Facebook page) but perhaps not as often as I have been doing.

So a massive thanks to each and every one of you for reading this blog, and for commenting, and for Facebook Liking and Twitter following. You probably don't realise the emotional spur your feedback provides. When I find an internet connection in a dreary backwater after a hard day in the saddle, the stuff you write lights up my day. I feel like I've personally carried all three hundred and odd of UniCycle50's Facebook Likers along with me. This has been great, but do you think you could all perhaps lose a bit of weight before I set off again next year?

And now the silence returns until 2012...