It rained heavily in the night and I thought of the UK. Reports suggest that in all the weeks that I have been away then it has only rained twice there. It was a slow dismantling of the camp: what was the rush today? With no little irony then the day was relatively chilly. When the sun came out it was warm but when behind the clouds it was blustery and cool. Oh for some of this earlier in the trip!
I sauntered into Bruges. It really is a lovely tourist town. Sat on a series of canals and well preserved with architecture that you’ll find on a thousand jigsaw puzzle box lids. I found the town completely packed and I pushed my bike through crowds to, firstly, a record shop where I was tempted by some Average White Band on vinyl (how would I safely carry it?) and then on to buy some sandwiches and bits for tonight’s meal on the ferry. I don’t partake of the dining on the ferry. It seldom appeals and as it transpires then I might have been head down in the soup with weariness after entering the restaurant!
I found some out of town shopping and ate a hot meal at a restaurant. From here it was onwards to the docks (courtesy of more f&*king cycle paths).
On arrival I was placed with the other two wheeled travellers. Needless to say they all had engines and had also been on long distance jaunts from the Czech Republic to Italy.
In my dreams I would love to be the archetypal Yorkshireman – bluff, independent minded, no nonsense and slightly detached. I met a man who was standing beside his motorbike. He was between 65 and 70 years old. Short, craggy and fit.
Tony: “So have you been far?”
(In my mind Naples may have been glorious 200 years ago but today it has a reputation for being an industrial busy port with unsavoury elements of crime).
Tony: “So how was it?”
Yorkshireman: “Not so good, first I got food poisoning that needed hospital treatment and then I nearly got mugged. I was approached by three teenagers and one of them stood in front of me and said ‘phone’. I punched him in the face and side swiped his girlfriend who was hovering. They ran off.”
(I found that a bit of a show stopper and I was left slightly speechless albeit it did seem brave and a fitting response. However, what if they had a knife?)
Tony: “Gosh, well that worked! However, I can see that losing your phone would have been terribly inconvenient.”
Yorkshireman: “Oh no, that was back in the hotel.”
On the ferry I showered and put on long trousers and a fleece top, strange and new garments after so many weeks of heat. I mooched around Duty Free and had a £4.25 pint of Guinness expecting it wouldn’t be the last. However on briefly returning to the cabin I was drawn to lying down and did so. After an hour of Ricky Gervais on Netflix I fell asleep at a ridiculously early hour! I think the body was about to insist that it was time to recuperate.
So the ferry poured us all into a busy Hull and I found my way home. Now, I have to be sensitive here because a good friend, Steve, has a deep heritage with Hull and complains at my slights. So firstly the good news is that out of all the Yorkshire towns that might have been visited by Aliens then Hull has that privilege. The folk who designed the cycle paths to move around and leave the city must have come from a different planet as they were neither co-ordinated or complete. Clearly on their planet they never have been to Hull or ridden a bicycle. Less fortunate was my discovery when completing a corner on one of these cycle paths. Facing me were two large Alsation dogs running at full pelt toward me. Slightly alarmed I noted quickly that they were both on a leash to a man who was astride his mobility scooter someway back. He understandably, to provide safety from head injuries, was wearing a cowboy hat. I give you Hull.
By the time I got back onto my street I had cycled 1,455 miles (or, for Greg Smith, 2,342 kilometres). Up until Bruges I averaged 7 hours a day on the bike and the distance averaged at just over 69 miles (112 kilometres) a day. To add to this I climbed 19,400 metres (Everest is 8,848 metres high) at 970 metres average per day. I have to add that the temperature was always over 30 degrees C sometime during the day and France, despite being further north seemed the hottest with most of the cycling time being above 33 degrees C (92 degrees F).
Any regrets? Well I am sorry that on the top of the first horrific hill out of Split (the worst of the whole ride within 5 miles of setting off!) when I met the German cyclists who were eating McVitie Digestive biscuits that I forgot to tell them that they were even more wonderful if dunked in a hot drink. To think that they proceeded to Greece not knowing this will always haunt me.
I steered my bike onto my street thinking where I had started was unreal and that apart from the North Sea I had pedalled each and every mile. It was a blast. Thank you for your company and if you want to read up about more of my tours and or receive a free guide to what I call ‘Cycle Tour Craft’ on how to get set up to do this then please click tonyives.com