33,735km, 3 years and 1 month later, and I’ve completed my first lap of the world. No big song and dance at the line though…in fact I couldn’t even get a picture right on the Meridian, as I arrived too early, and they were closed! Because of the location on a hill, you can only approach it from the east anyway, so I’d already crossed it. Got a photo at the gate, couldn’t be bothered waiting the half hour for it to open, so back on the bike, and started the second lap.
Slight change of tack this time though, I’m going backwards, heading away from the rising sun. So far, that’s not been the best of ideas either, as the wind has been against me. But no matter, I’m riding about in the English countryside at the start of spring, and I’m loving it! Quiet country lanes, impossibly picturesque villages of thatched-roof houses, plenty of pubs serving solid food and real ales…suits me pretty well. Being able to have proper conversations with people who are interested in what you are doing is a huge benefit. So many times you meet people on the road, and you can talk about the basics of what you’re doing, but language difficulties stop you going much further. Nice to be able to pick up books and newspapers too.
I had a day off in London, doing a bit of shopping. I’ve picked up a netbook, which makes it much easier getting online. No more hunting down Internet cafes, now I just need to wander around finding free Wi-Fi. It was as crowded as ever in London, and of course multiple Tube lines were closed for maintenance, but I loved being able to visit shops like Stanfords, the best map shop I’ve ever seen. If you have even a vague interest in maps, this is the shop to go to. Also superb book shops in the area.
Part of the reason for doing this leg of the trip is to catch up with people I know, but part is to do a few things I meant to do when I lived here. One of those things was to see “We Will Rock You” – a musical by Queen and Ben Elton. Recently they gave their 3,000th performance, and the theatre was still at least 80% full at the matinee performance I caught. Gives you an idea of the popularity. Totally worth it too, it’s a fantastic show.
Riding out of London on the Thames, it seemed that half of London was out enjoying the start of spring. Boats on the water, people walking along the paths, enjoying some sunshine…even if it is still a touch cool. First stop for me was High Wycombe, where I stayed with the Slatters. A couple of years ago, I rode with Jan in Turkey and Iran, and caught up again in Malaysia. Couldn’t have asked for better hospitality – plenty of food to feed a hungry cyclist, beer to wash it down, and good conversation.
From here, it was undeniably countryside I was in, as I tooled along through villages, along bridleways, country lanes and minor roads. A few flashes of motorways and busy roads, but they were mostly avoided. I ended up in a hostel pretty much by myself. It’s a bit strange rattling about in a big old dark place, but it’s familiar from back when I started out doing all this. This time of year, some of these places aren’t even open.
I’m now in Bath, where I’ve had the day off. After all this time, oddly enough my right kneecap is giving me some niggles. I think it’s because I had three weeks off in Argentina, and I’ve been doing longish days in the saddle over the last couple of days. So I took a rest day here, hoping that it’s just minor tendonitis, that will clear with rest. Good city to stop in too, Roman history, interesting Georgian buildings, bit busier than I expected though, must be carnage in summer when every tourist in England visits.
The rough plan is to head from here to Bristol, then turn north, heading towards Scotland. Depends on how the knee behaves over the next few days as to what sort of mileage I make. At least there are usually plenty of places to stay, so I have options of doing shorter days if required.
Now that I’ve got the netbook, managing photos should be easier – here’s a few from the last few days on the road