The Return

 

Sitting in a hostel in Cairo with the sounds of the city below coming through the balcony,  I remembered how it was waiting on the coir mat as I came in from the shops one day and how I nearly stepped on it. The card was red and white with the box “Recorded Signed for” ticked off. My heart gave a summersault, I was sure this was it. I had been waiting for more than three months and finally here it was. I looked at the clock and it was past 4 o’clock, too late to collect it,  it would have to wait until the next day.

Seven and a half months earlier, at the end of May, I had arrived back in London after nearly two years of cycling from London to Far East Asia. Two years full of experiences, challenges, places, people and the newness inherent in the daily moving on. For two years I had been a nomad on a bike and here I was back in the house where I had lived for 22 years. I had come back to make sure that it continued being my home.

On my first day back, when I walked through the door and went upstairs to my room everything felt so familiar, so ordinary that in an instant it was like I had never been away. I had the odd sensation that  those two years on the bike had remained in the world of dreams where the cycling adventure had been conceived many years earlier.

There were things that proved to me that I wasn’t dreaming. There was a heatwave in London when I got back, the 21 of June was the hottest June day for 40 years, NHS England was urging vulnerable people to stay hydrated and keep cool and yet I needed extra covers at night. When I went to the shops and stood in front of dozens of different cereal boxes I was seized by anxiety and had to leave, I couldn’t cope with the choice. I looked at commuters in the eyes and smiled at them expecting a smile back, some responded but many looked away,  appeared awkward, shuffled in their seats and to avoid my eyes immersed themselves in their smart phones. The world around me was grey- grey in the clothes of people, grey in the buildings and pavements, even the sky was grey some days. My world a few days earlier had been full of colour.  I realised that I was looking at London with different filters.

Adjusting was hard and in those first few weeks friends and family were a lifeline.  I came back to live with my daughter Amaya and her partner John and having them around kept me sane and staved off depression.

I filled my days seeing friends in London and further afield and catching up on their lives, visiting museums and galleries, having meals, telling and retelling anecdotes of my travels that instantly transported me back to the places and situations I was describing. I realised I that it was my way to reaffirming that my travels had been real.

meeting friends was a lifeline

Getting the paperwork ready to apply for permanent residency in the UK, a country where I had lived and worked since 1980 was a journey on its own right. I spent hours and hours and hours gathering the evidence I had to submit with the over 80 page long form. I had to look for pieces of paper that had been sent to me by the UK tax officials in 1986, boarding passes to prove that I had not been out of the country for more than two years, the whole of my employment history including how much I earned when I started each job and how much I earned when I left it. It was a nightmarish trip down memory lane. Finally the form and the documentation went in and all I could do was wait.

hours and hours of work on the table

The only way I could cope with the wait was by keeping busy.  I did some frantic DIY in the house, got rid of bags and bags of clothes, poured over maps, read other people’s blogs. I lived with a sense that my life was in a  parenthesis and it wasn’t easy. If  I stopped my endless activity I felt lost.

You would have thought that I used the time to explore the UK on Foxtrot but I didn’t. I did do a few trips and whilst riding the bike in the company of dear friends felt good,  it made me yearn for the  life on the road that I had had to cut short.

I told anyone who listened that I was only in London for a while, long enough to sort out my permanent residency papers and as autumn turned to winter and my permit had not arrived, I decided I would stay for Xmas and leave early in the new year whether my papers had arrived or not. Once more, my daughters talked sense into me and convinced me to delay my journey until I was in possession of the permanent residency card.

I knew that the delivery note on the doormat held the passport to my travels that I had been waiting for. The following day I rushed to the Post Office to collect the package, I couldn’t wait to get home, I ripped the envelope open and there it was, a small blue card that to me represented the freedom to set off again. I was elated.

A couple of days later the flight that would bring me to Cairo was booked and I started to say goodbye to  friends and family.

On the flight I thought about how much I would miss my friends. I thought about how sad it would be not to be able to hug my daughters for many months to come and I also thought about how much joy I would feel exploring Africa from the saddle of my bike.

Tomorrow is day one of that adventure.

 

 

 

African Route

This is the route I’m following in Africa. Each marker shows where I spend the night each day, blue for the days I cycled and orange when I’m off the bike.

There is a page for each country with information about:

  • Start and finish point of each day
  • Daily distance in km
  • Total for each country

The pages show the countries in the chronological order in which I cycled them. When I visited a country twice I’ve put the information together in the page of that country.

On the days I crossed a border, the day is split into two and it shows in the table of each country

The distances in his page are taken from my Garmin In Reach GPS tracker as I don’t have a bike computer (or maps.me if I forget to switch it on)

For general information about each country, including details of accommodation go to the country file section in the menu picking the country of your choice

Vietnam

Start Finish Distance (Km) Notes
Hanoi Somewhere on the QL18B 31
Somewhere on the QL18B Phu Thai 54
Phu Thai Gieng Day 80
Gieng Day Cat Ba 30
Cat Ba Tam Coc 3 ferry and bus
Tam Coc Cuc Phuong 44
Cuc Phuong Cuc Phuong 20
Cuc Phuong Muong Khen 79
Muong Khen Mai Chau 39
Mai Chau Hanoi 11 by bus
Hanoi Van Dinh 47
Van Dinh Cuc Phuon Bridge VI 68
Cuc Phuon Bridge VI Bui (Cam Thuy) 26
Bui (Cam Thuy) Lang Chanh 47
Lang Chanh Yen Cat 75
Yen Cat Tan Ky 93
Tan Ki HCM Km 751.5 65
HCM Km 751.5 Vu Quang 70
Vu Quang Tan Ap 58
Tan Ap Pheo 51
Pheo Phong NHS 55
Phong Nha Phong Nha 26
Phong NHS Dong Hoi 46
Dong Hoi Hoa Ly 87
Hoa Ly Hai Lang 56
Hai Lang Hue 76
Hue Lang Co 88
Lang Co Da Nang 45
Da Nang Da Nang 28
Da Nang Hoi An 38
Hoi An Hoi An 20 local excursions
Hoi An Hoi An 15 local excursions
Hoi An Hoi An 10 local excursions
Hoi An Hoi An 10 local excursions
Hoi An Ha Thanh 60
Ha Thanh Lang bin Chau 78
Lang bin Chau Ba To 83
Ba To Km 71 QL28 43
Km 71 QL28 Mang Den 43
Mang Den Kon Tum 59
Kon Tum Chu Se 80
Chu Se EA Dragon 69
EA Dragon Buon Ma Thuot 73
Buon Ma Thuot QL 24 km 65 68
QL 24 km 65 QL 24 km 135 70
QL 24 km 135 Da Lat 66
Da Lat Lam Ha 45
Lam Ha Somewhere in QL28 46
Somewhere in QL28 Junction QL28 & DT713 59
Junction QL28 & DT713 Long Khanh 86
Long Khanh Ho Chi Min City 75
Ho Chi Min City Tan An 55
Tan An Bin Hoa Phuoc 72
Bin Hoa Phuoc Can Tho 58
Can Tho Ap Luc 70
Ap Luc Thuan Tien 83
Thuan Tien Cambodia border 53
cycling days distance (Km)
Total Vietnam 58 3 085

Thailand

Part 1

Start Finish Distance (Km) Notes
Thai border Phibun Mang Sa Han 42
Phibun Mang Sa Han Ban Huai Kham Yung 69
Ban Huai Kham Yung Road 226 on the way to Surin 71
Road 226 on the way to Surin Surin 75
Surin Ban Chaloem Phra Kiat 91
Ban Chaloem Phra Kiat Nr Ban Nong Hua Raet 66
Nr Ban Nong Hua Raet Nr Bo Tong 92
Nr Bo Tong Pak Chong 27
Pak Chong Khao Yai national park 32
Khao Yai national park Khao Yai national park 10
Khao Yai national park Bangkok 41 train from Pak Chong
Bangkok Prachuap Khiri Khan 0 by train
Prachuap Khiri Khan Ban Krut 79
Ban Krut Pak Klang 66
Pak Klang Somewhere on road 41 82
Somewhere on road 41 Lamae beach 73
Lamae beach Wat Suan Mokkh 68
Wat Suan Mokkh Surat Thani 43
Surat Thani Koh Samui 26 night ferry crossing
Koh Samui Bangkok 24 ferry to Don Sak then bus to Bangkok
Bangkok Bangkok 27
cycling days distance
Total Thailand 20 1103

Part 2

Start Finish Distance (Km) Notes
Thai Border Road 351 63
Road 351 Road 304 nr Phanom Sarakham 80
Road 304 nr Phanom Sarakham Bangkok 93
Cycling round Bangkok 25
cycling days distance
Total Thailand 4 198

Laos

Start Finish Distance (Km) Notes
Village before Manzhuang Nateby 50
Nateby Oudomxay 79
Oudomxay Village East of Lak ha sip 57
Village East of Lak ha sip Ban Fay 84
Ban Fay Luang Prabang 53
Luang Prabang Kacham Waterfall 43
Kacham Waterfall South of Nameuang 30
South of Nameuang Van Vieng 20 got a lift part of the way – very steep gradients
Van Vieng Pak Vang 50
Pak Vang Boua 64
Boua Vientiane 40
Vientiane Nalong 42
Nalong Hai Ban 43
Hai Ban Xaysavanag 69
Ban Xaysavanag Pakkading 57
Pakkading Houayhai 50
Houayhay Kong Lor 80
Kong Lor Ban Phon Phon 48
Ban Phon Phon South of Thakek 62
South of Thakek On the Mekong 50
On the Mekong On the Mekong 46
On the Mekong Savannakhet 44
Savannakhet Pakxong 73
Pakxong Lak 90 78
Lak 90 Ban Kham Peng 59
Ban Kham Peng Pakse 32
Pakse Thang Baeng 49
Thang Baeng Before Naka Sang 83
Before Naka Sang Don Det 13
Don Det Champasak 3 bus to the ferry crossing
Champasak Champasak 18
Champasak 13k to the Thai border 54
Thai Border 13
cycling days distance
Total Laos 33 1636

China

Start Finish Distance (Km) Notes
Ulugqat Kashgar 110
Kashgar Urumqi 0 by bus
Urumqi Xining 0 by train
Xining Between Bayan and Jintao 79
Between Bayan and Jintao Lake Qinghai 67
Lake Qinghai Daotanghe 60
Daotanghe Somewhere in the Tibetan plateau 67
Somewhere in the Tibetan plateau Xiongxian 55
Xiongxian Jainca 71
January Rebkong 59
Rebuking Guashizexiang 46
Guashizexiang Xiahe 59
Xiahe Hezuo 66
Hezuo Luqu 80
Luqu Langmusi 87
Langmusi Ro er gai 83
Ro er gai Somewhere in the Tibetan plateau 82
Somewhere in the Tibetan plateau Song Pan 80
Song Pan Jiuzhaigou 0 by bus
Jiuzhaigou Song Pan 0 by bus
Song Pan Shidaguan 102
Shidaguan Weizhou 77
Weizhou Duyiangyan 74
Duyiangyan Chengdu 60
Chengdu Guilin 0 by train
Guilin Hong Kong 0 by train and ferry
Hong Kong Chengdu 0 by plane
Chengdu Kangding 0 by bus
Kangding Litang 0 by bus
Litang Plateau 56 small pass – 4117mt
Plateau Plateau 30 high pass – 4696 mt then descended to 4382 mt and climbed again to 4615mt
Plateau south of Shagong 84 pass over 4700 mt
South of Shagong Xiancheng 30
Xiancheng Shangri-la 0 by bus
Shangri-la Camping 50
Camping Baishutau 50
Baishutai Walnut Garden 68
Walnut Garden Somewhere on the road to Lijiang 57
Somewhere on the road to Liniang Litang 47
Litang Somewhere south of Songgui 76
Somewhere south of Songgui Dali 85
Dali Jinghong 0 by bus
Jinghong a village nr Menglun 69
a village nr Menglun Mengyuan 55
Mengyuan Village before Manzhuang 65
cycling days distance
Total China 34 2286

Kyrgyztan

Start Finish Distance (Km) Notes
Sary Tash Gulcha 106
Gulcha Osh 85
Osh Sary Tash 0 by taxi
Sary Tash 33 km from Sary Tash 33
33 km from Sary Tash Nura 34
Nura Ulugqat 18 arrived in China
cycling days distance
Total Kyrgyzstan 5 276

Tajikistan

Start Finish Distance (Km) Notes
Dushanbe Faizobod 63
Faizobod Roghun 43
Roghun Before Tavildara 36
Before Tavildara Km 6 after checkpoint 54
Km 6 after checkpoint Saferodon 25
Saferodon Qalai-Khumb 52
Qalai-Khumb Nr Vishkharv 39
Nr Vishkharv Vahdat check point 42
Vahdat check point Shide 64
Shidz Khorog 92
Khorog Andarob 37
Andarob Ishkoshim 67
Ishkoshim Nr Shitkharv 50
Nr Shitkharv Langar 63
Langar 33km from Langar 33
33km from Langar Khargushi 35
Khargushi Alichur 54
Alichur Murghab 104
Murghab Approx 8km before Akbaital pass 67
Approx 8km before Akbaital pass Karakul 66
Karakul Uy Buloq pass 31
Uy Buloq pass Sary Tash 66 arrived in Kyrgyzstan
cycling days distance
Total Tajikistan 22 1183

Iran

Start Finish Distance (Km) Notes
Agarak Jolfa 66
Jolfa Marand 66
Marand Soufian 34
Soufian Tabriz 30
Tabriz Bostan Abad 65
Bostan Abad Miyaneh 111
Miyaneh TIR place red crescent 67
TIR place red crescent Zanjas 36
Zanjas Saeen Qale 67
Saeen Qale Nr Qerveh 45
Nr Qerveh Qazvin 81
Qazvin Hashtgerd 15 raining Warmshowers host lift
Hashtgerd Tehran 81
Tehran Isfahan 0 by bus
Isfahan Gishi 100
Gishi Varzaneh 31
Varzaneh Khargushi 73
Kargushi Nadushan 30
Nadushan Yasd 93
Yasd Shiraz 0 by bus
Shiraz Tehran 0 by bus
Tehran Tashkent 0 by plane
cycling days distance
Total Iran 18 1091

Armenia

Start Finish Distance (Km) Notes
Armenian Border Haghpat Monastery 35
Haghpat Monastery Vanadzor 57
Vanadzor Dijijan 39
Dirijan Lake Sevan 30
Lake Sevan Yerevan 68
Yerevan Halidzor Tativ wings 0 by car
Halidzor Tativ wings Near Aghvani 25
Near Aghvani Kapan 41
Kapan Kadjaran 24
Kadjaran Agarak 54
cycling days distance
Total Armenia 9 373