I’ve been in Whangarei for a couple of weeks now, off the bike, and trying to sort out my life. I’ve been going through the boxes of stuff I left here, somewhat amazed at the amount of stuff I had – although I can see that it will only increase if I get settled somewhere. After being so weight-conscious for so long, it’s a bit of a change to own more than one shirt, and to wear (shock) jeans. But I still need to avoid accumulating crap, as I’m still moving around, and I won’t settle in one place until I sort out a job. On that front, I have at least made a start – should get something sorted out there in the not too distant future.
I’m still thinking about my time on the road, and missing it, but for now I thought I’d list a few of my personal highlights
- Best Country: China. I knew that if I didn’t like China, it would severely hamper my overall feeling for this trip. I spent more than twice as much time in China as any other country. Of course, it’s so vast, that each province feels like a new country, but still, it was a long time without crossing borders. It was all plain sailing, with at times severe pollution, and delightful cultural practices like coughing up an internal organ each morning, but it was a fantastic, intense, occasionally overwhelming cultural experience.
- Best climb: Ala Bel pass in Kyrgyzstan. Climbing up 2000m in one day, up a narrow valley, starting off in lush bush areas, climbing to Alpine pastures with herds of horses, and people living in yurts (felt tents), finally making it over the top very late in the day. Coming down the other side, it opened out to a broad valley, absolute postcard scenery. Honourable mention to the Tuu Ashu pass the following day – 1000m up an open mountainside, through a long tunnel, and down a series of hairpins, racing down a narrow valley.
- Friendliest people: Iranians. Sometimes overly so – they are so keen to help you, they will try and help you out when you don’t even want or need any help. Don’t believe anything you see on the news about Iran. Their government might be mad, but they wouldn’t be the only country to have mad leaders, but nice people…
- Best country for cycling in: Close one here, could be Laos or Germany. Germany rates highly for its bike paths everywhere, high quality bike gear widely available, beer gardens conveniently located every few kilometres, and great people. You didn’t need to explain why you were riding around the world – they just understood. Laos was great for the sealed roads with no traffic, exceptionally friendly children, and for being so laid back. After being constantly hassled to buy things in other countries, there was something refreshing about having to wake up the sleeping staff, to try and round up another beer.
- Best town that few tourists see: Plenty of candidates here, but Beihai is the winner. I felt it was somewhere I could happily come back to, and live in for a while. This is the town where I spent Christmas. We stopped just to look at a bike shop, and ended up getting invited to the Christmas party. If you ever do visit Beihai, go to McDonalds on Friday night, to help out with informal English lessons.
- Best beer: Belgium, for just about any beer style you could ever want, and more than a few you’ve never even thought of. Even the hostel I stayed at had a menu of different beer options. China rates a mention for the exceptionally low price, but I can’t say too much for the quality.
Maybe I’ll add a few lowlights later – or just continue to think positively about the whole experience.
Thanks for the comments people have left – it’s nice to know that people enjoyed reading my blog over the last year and a bit, and have supported and encouraged me along the way. Photos of Australia are now sorted out. At some point I’ll put some shots into Flick or similar, to make it a bit easier to view them.