Craving the unexpected.

It has poured down with rain at the exact time we leave work with alarming frequency in the last few weeks, adding yet another layer of routine to my days. But last Saturday, although the rain may have seemed routine the ensuing double puncture that I suffered on the way home was far from it. “Ah but you’re an experienced cyclist!” I hear you cry, “…surely punctures are as routine as they come?”

I suppose it would have been had my second spare inner tube not already been faulty, leaving me around 8 miles from home with a handful of useless rubber tubing and a tyre as flat as the proverbial pancake. For a moment I was frustrated, but then the beauty of the opportunity dawned on me… once again presented with the chance to burst off the pages of my own story and go tramping off onto someone else’s narrative. Even if it was only for a few short lines. This is the kind of detour that becomes common place for the whimsical traveller or hitchhiker, but somewhat of a rarity for me in recent months.

So off I went in search of a solution, first up was the man stood outside his corner shop. No joy. Then a short walk to the nearest Co-Op, with the hope that someone there would cycle to work. What followed was the most non-human human interaction, as the security guard in the shop sought to send me packing as I had the bike with me- I eventually convinced him to let me ask the question I needed to ask. Still no luck. However in the time it took to overcome his staunch anti bike policy I had at least succeeded in drawing the attention of every other shopper in the place.

As a result I was chased out of the shop by a Spanish woman and her gaggle of kids, as she sought to find out what was wrong and if she could help, Muchas gracias! She was unable to help but did attract the attention of an unassuming man walking down the street, who just happened to be a one time keen cyclist. After a brief explanation of my plight, he agreed to try to dig out an inner tube for me in his flat, so he bought some beer in the corner shop and off we went, not before the corner shop man had given me a free can of coke. Success.

The mans name was Ed. Ed lived in block of flats just up the street, and his flat was about four flights of stairs up. Soaking wet at this point I left a trail of sorts up the stairs. He popped inside, leaving me in the hallway, and emerged a while later with a box of spares of the kind I imagine almost all cyclists posses. At least half full of broken, discarded and otherwise useless parts, fixings and brackets… but thankfully also containing an inner tube of the correct dimensions. He was such a gent that he even pumped up the tyre for me once I had squeezed the tube inside. An awkward goodbye followed where I eventually got him to accept a crumpled up fiver in exchange for his inner tube, and then i was rolling off down the road again as if it had never happened.

It is this kind of¬†chance encounter that I miss from being on the road last summer. Leaving things to chance, stepping out into complete uncertainty with hardly a euro in your pocket… sleeping behind a gas station wondering if those truckers will find you in the night, where the next ride will come from and if you will ever get there.

The Night that was… A Night of Adventure

AH NOA

I think the last time I attended an event where Al Humphreys was speaking was in 2011, and to say I was massively inspired is probably an understatement, In the months and years that followed I cycled from Sheffield to London in a single day in the middle of winter, completed LEJOG, cycled to Romania and have had myriad hitch hiking adventures. So far, so good. And if you are reading this Al, don’t worry I don’t hold you entirely responsible, I blame my friend Robert for taking me!

“If there is something you really want to do, you really should do it…”¬†Ben Saunders.

It was a fantastic evening of awe inspiring presentations, by men and women who have done some incredible things. Ranging from wild swimming and long distance bicycle touring, to polar exploration… and as far out crazy as whatever you call that thing that Finn McCann does.

“From the miserable to the deeply enjoyable…” Al Humphreys.

It is hardly surprising that midway through the evening I felt a physical yearning in my heart for the open road, new experiences, adventure. Probably my personal highlight of the evening was the genuine horror of a woman somewhere behind me when a naked bottom flashed up on the screen during the wild swimming presentation. Priceless.

“Deliberate courting of uncertainty…” Anna Hughes.

I came into tonight off the back of a good run of weeks where I have been muttering the phrase “cycling to India”, with what I can only describe as alarming regularity. Yes, alarming even to me. Well if I arrived with any doubt about embarking on said trip, by the time I was Boris biking back to Charing X that same doubt was further diminished. And added into the bargain was all the cash raised on the night for the charity Hope and Homes for Children; so if you weren’t there, make sure you get a ticket next time.

Sarajevo Storyboard Pt 2.

More busy weeks here in Romania, but here’s part two as promised.

 

Do the Balkan hitch.

Petrol station close to the Bosnian border.

Petrol station close to the Bosnian border.

Sat here on the balcony at the house up on the hill this morning; coffee, muesli, birdsong- looking back on the week that was. And what a week. Back in November I read a book called “Besieged” by Barbara Demick, a first hand account of the struggles faced by people living in Sarajevo between 1992 and 1995 during the war in former Yugoslavia. It proved to be as fascinating as it was heart wrenching to read, somehow through all the years of history lessons in school this particular period had been reduced to a small foot note for me. After finishing the book and reading a bit more around it I knew I had to visit the place. And so it was that last Friday morning I set about hitch hiking to Sarajevo.

It took two days hitching, arriving on Saturday night, and another two to get back; I met a friend who had come from Croatia down there and the entire week was incredible. It’s the furthest I have hitched before by a long way. It seems like when you are hitching you are essentially stepping out into the world in a slightly compromised position- and it’s then between you and the people you meet along the way to make the best of it. Hitching is an amazing way to remind yourself of how beautiful the world is, and how good the people are that live in it. I think I am usually inclined to taking a first impression and sticking with it and the distance you create between people can help support that, but I found the opposite on this trip; I had to be as open as I could manage with complete strangers and the good will I found and friends I made in return was fantastic. I hope I can hold onto this.

36 floors up in Sarajevo.

36 floors up in Sarajevo.

Before leaving I had sought the advice of a great man that has been working out here for ten years now, he has more experience hitching than anyone else I know so I approached him in search of wisdom. I had planned to combine what he told me with the things I had noted along the way as some kind of “top tips” for my first post back. Unfortunately, due to a lapse in concentration in the penultimate hitch just as we got back into a familiar setting on Thursday evening, I left a bag of things in the car. Amongst them was my journal, and all my recorded thoughts from the week were suddenly accelerating away from me. So I’m left with just one tip for now; stay alert if you want to keep your stuff! I’m holding on to a faint hope that it comes back to me, I’ve never written so much on a one week trip before.

I can only recall snippets of what I originally wrote but it’s not so bad, the week has also kicked off a violent chain reaction of potential future plans. Thoughts, ideas, inspiration- keeping me awake at night with the excitement. It’s almost as good as being out on the road, I guess when the travel bug bites, she bites hard. And then the realist in me rudely interjects. pointing out my “limited resources and blah, blah, blah…” . Obstacles can be overcome, but only if you are willing to try. Right?

Thanks for reading, more thoughts and pictures to come!

A.

P.S. Thanks mum for the new kicks, think they will take me far.

P.S. Thanks mum for the new kicks, think they will take me far.