A Wight Island and New Forest.

Rolling along the city streets of Portsmouth on a Sunday evening the place felt almost empty. How peaceful a place can be devoid of traffic. Rather than the revving of engines by impatient motorists, we heard the clatter of wood on pavement as skaters attempted kickflips off an office wall. We arrived at the ferry port with minutes to spare before the next sailing. “Where are you going?” “Australia.” “Uh, I think you’ve got the wrong ferry..”

After a mere 40 minute ferry voyage across the Solent (“Tell your mates to get down from there. Would you climb on the wing of an aeroplane?”), punctuated by the deck soundtrack of car alarms continuously alerting us to their presence, we disembarked on the Isle of Wight, or ‘Vectis’ as the Romans called it. That night came the beginning of Phil’s bike troubles in the form of his front brake cable snapping. We spent hours in the darkness trying to find a suitable camping spot before lucking out and making our home that night under a tree by a stream flowing down a gully. I slept out under the powerful light of the near-full moon while Phil and Ellie kept warm in his new deluxe model tent.

In the morning I improvised a front brake for Phil using the spare friction thumb shifter I was carrying amongst my awfully heavy kit, and then he got a puncture. He got lent a map to help us find our way to the closest bike shop, apparently on a farm. When we arrived at The Bike Shed about 10 miles and many dirt track footpaths later, I laughed as we saw a ‘Closed’ sign hanging inside the doorway. We sat in despair on the grass and made our way through yet more bread and marmalade (the food situation wasn’t great, I will admit) as our new acquaintance regaled us with trivial tales of driving on England’s roads. I particularly liked his story about taking the wrong exit near London’s south circular, the A205 I know having cycled on it myself, and finding himself in a part of town where “I didn’t see a single white person, only coloureds and loads of them Muslims. I hoped to god I didn’t get a breakdown.” I enquired as to whether he thought Muslims weren’t very good car mechanics but he didn’t seem to hear.

It was then that Phil noticed that we had right before our eyes that holy grail – a bin! We rummaged to our heart’s content, fixed Phil’s brake properly and affixed two new bells to my HUD (Heads Up Display). To the Garlic Farm! Which was of course closed. We ran into a fellow who worked there though and whilst sipping on some garlic beer heard his tales of Japan, “I noticed that handles don’t feature in their products, for example teapots and mugs..and I was an adolescent girl shit in a box.”

That night we came to the coast again, camped in a field, and Phil’s rack snapped.

I awoke in the wee hours to a breathtakingly vivid sunrise and allowed myself a second look at the hues of orange and red expanding outwards before pulling my hood tighter and drifting back to sleep. I helped Phil join his rack together with cable ties before we left and acquired old motorbike inner tube for a stronger repair. That day we reveled in perfect conditions along flat (!) ground along the southern coastline, where we stripped off and romped in the ocean before going uphill again.

We said goodbye to the friendly little island and took an evening ferry back to the mainland, arriving in the New Forest where we decided to make camp. We found a spot with a magical feeling to it. A deer bounded out from a bush 5 paces in front of me, a stream flowed over sand and rocks to the side of us and the leaves underfoot provided a great floor. Yes, it felt good to be back in a forest. The tent was getting set up when put, put, put drove a golf buggy about 75m away. It seems that wherever you are in the south of England there’s always someone close by.

Our New Forest camp.

Our New Forest camp.

Week One

A Bicycle Built.

A pictorial of my first every ‘homemade’ bike. I highly recommend having a go if you have the opportunity, just be prepared to compromise when things don’t work out quite as planned! A huge thank you goes out to the Broken Spoke Bike Co-Op in Oxford, one of a network of open community bicycle workshops springing up around the world, enabling and empowering people to keep on the move using their own hands and very little money. It is through their existence, kindness, wisdom and patience that I was able to realise my goal of setting off on this fantastic journey on my own creation.

So there you have it! I spent a lot more than I would’ve liked because of time constraints, and so bought things that I could’ve found in bins or on old bikes had I been prepared to spend more time looking.Including a nice new leather saddle. all the bags, racks and accessories, the total is around £500, but includes a huge amount of knowledge gained! I now feel much more confident in tackling the problems which will undoubtedly arise.

See you somewhere…

Third Time Lucky?

The last couple of occasions on which I’ve written an update such as this, that is literally about to set off out the door on another grand adventure, have turned out quite differently to what I’d hoped for. Perhaps I’ll fare better this time. It’s 3am on Friday the 11th of April, so I’ve missed by goal of leaving on Thursday but only by a matter of hours. I’m eating some toast and then hopping on my newly finished touring bike which has taken the last week to complete, beginning as only a frame and forks. The process of building my own bicycle has been a steep and often stressful learning curve, but seeing it now fully laden and (mostly) functioning in the knowledge that I put it all together myself is nicely gratifying. There will be a more in depth article on that soon.

The moon and clouds are playing safe in the knowledge that almost no-one’s watching. The usual background noise of engines guzzling fuel as their owners speed along without a thought for the kind of environment they’re creating, is gone, consumed by the after-hours darkness. My bike is, some would say, ridiculously overladen. My toast is up and I’m bloody hungry. Time to go!

One week since building commenced, the beast of burden is ready to roll.

One week since building commenced, the beast of burden is ready to roll.

How does my backside look?

How does my backside look?

Surprise!

For some time now I’ve been working on a leaving plan. Organising, planning, thinking, thinking, thinking. And a little doing. Well I’ve decided enough is enough and it’s about time to skedaddle, so I’ve penciled in this Thursday the 10th as the day I will hit the road. And so it’s quite a busy weekend! I won’t give everything away just yet but suffice to say that if all goes well I will be starting off the ride on the south coast of England with company in a week’s time. Stay tuned for an article to be published soon about my steed, and I’ll throw in a few photos to whet your appetite. Wish me luck- I’ll need it to be on the road in four days!

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Full Steam Ahead!

We’re now over a week into Spring by my reckoning and things are going well. I’m working on a small dairy farm in Oxfordshire while making preparations to leave and training my achilles tendon. I’ve just printed the first flyers for the ride and am taking them in to Critical Mass London this evening. Currently the plan is to depart by March 31st-check out the route I’m about to post!

TPWI_Flyer

Getting Back on Track

The sailing voyage back in October didn’t go quite as planned, but nonetheless I spent some time becoming familiar with various boats and marinas around the Straits of Gibraltar, before finally finding a couple willing to take me on board their 36ft sloop from La Linea de la Concepcion, Spain. We sailed for 6 days, bobbing along the surface of the North Atlantic ocean until our eyes spotted the welcome sight of the Canary Islands. It was during one night watch while I lay by the wheel looking up at the heavens that I realised I didn’t want to just sail to Australia; I want to cycle! I’ll tell more of that story another time.

So it is that I’m now in England preparing to begin my journey of discovery in Spring.  To depart in March is my goal but it depends on the weather and the condition of my achilles tendon. Back in August I was diagnosed with achilles bursitis, less serious than tendonitis but still enough to halt the entire trip if not treated properly, and am now consulting a physiotherapist and podiatrist whilst cycling every day. At the same time I’m working, saving up, and beginning to seek sponsorship and others interested in being a part of this magnificent project.

Now that I’m focused once again on making this happen I will continue to update this website as events unfold. Spread the word, get in touch and make the most of life!