I’m sure for anyone starting their cycling tour there is a big count down until the day they leave. For us, we had the idea for our trip around three years before we set off, we hosted numerous touring cyclists in Hokkaido, gathering lots of useful information, and we did a few smaller trips in Japan before the big off. Now it is a whole year on since we said goodbye to our apartment in Iwamizawa and our friends we had many fun adventures with in Japan. And what a year it’s been. There have been so many amazing experiences leading to it being one of the best years, but also one of the worst years with losing my Dad. With great loss it can put life in perspective, to try and live every day and make the most of this one opportunity we have. I have tried as best I could to do this.
As we wait in the tent for the rain to stop I ask Andy, ‘What have been your highlights of the trip?’. It is nearly exactly one year on since we left. ‘Japan, oh and Thailand, and China, and now.’ he answers. I think the list would have just continued to cover everywhere we have been so far but then that’s much better than disliking the majority of countries we have travelled through. This is our problem, when people ask, there isn’t one single country we have enjoyed more overall. We have enjoyed different times in each country. There are so many elements that make the trip enjoyable, people, food, landscape, roads, culture, and did I mention food. When I think back to all that has happened in a single year it’s quite incredible.
I don’t want to get too soppy, but the trip just wouldn’t be the same if I was doing it alone or really with anyone else. It can be tough being with someone literally 24/7 and can cause some people real stress. Andy and I work well as team and have shown a lot of love and support for each other this past year. It is a major factor to what has made the experience far greater.
Through the year we have learnt a few things. It’s easy to see the cycling as just an A to B and sometimes rush from one place to another. We now try and make sure we stop more, enjoy a spot under a tree for a tea and biscuit break (very important), or stop to take a photo, or stop to talk to people along the way. It all adds to the trip and enriches it. We try to accept that things don’t always go to plan and each culture is very different to our own, there’s no point fighting these things. We don’t even try to compare how others do their trip and try to concentrate on what makes us happy.
For me the cycling part of the trip was a means to cheaper travelling and being on your own schedule. Therefore sometimes the hard parts can make me question the way we’re doing the trip but overall it really is an enjoyable way to see things. I said right at the beginning after one month that I sometimes felt like the weak link in this ‘travelling’ relationship, that’s definitely changed and day to day we help each other out when energy levels are low or something goes wrong. We’re both far stronger than when we started and have a clearer idea of how to make our trip more enjoyable. So all positives. There are of course negatives but sitting in this hotel room drinking beer after a lovely warm shower I can’t think of them. And that’s the great thing about this, at the time climbing steep, rocky mountains in 30+ C feels extremely hard but once you get to the top and see the view you forget that bit and only remember the good. Those are the memories we will keep with us. The biggest issue for me is more time away from my family and friends, but less than a year now until we’ll be back with them.
I don’t want to go on for too long so just a few other things about the year. We have now travelled through, Japan, South Korea, China (3 sections), Hong Kong, Macau, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Kazakstan, and Kyrgyzstan. We have covered 12,577 km on our bikes (and numerous others by boat, train, taxi, and tuk-tuk). We have met many wonderful people along the way, locals and other tourists. We have seen so many beautiful places on and off the bikes. Our favourite comment so far on the blog comes from Mark Woods, ‘Please can I report that this blog helped me in a pub quiz. Yes, after reading this post I knew that Bishkek was the Capital city of Krygyzstan. Thank you Andy and Clare for increasing the knowledge of your readers.’ And lastly I am very proud of all we have done this year, sometimes it’s hard to fathom what we have achieved but when we start to think about it it’s pretty crazy (in a great way). Here’s to one more.