Archive for August, 2006

Greetings from Szeged

Monday, August 28th, 2006

Hey guys,

Greetings from Szeged!!!

Well it’s Sunday morning and I’m about to leave Hungary and enter Serbia and Montenegro. I was up at 6am this morning and got a quick 20 miles in so a coffee and an email seems deserved before I head for the border.

I left Slovakia about 3 days ago and it’s there that Ben and I went our separate ways at a non-descript bridge on the Slovakian-Hungarian border. He headed South-West to Croatia and I headed South East to Budapest. It felt strange saying bye as you get used to cycling with someone pretty quickly. It was good to have the company both from the companionship aspect and also the sharing of the responsibilities.

Entering Slovakia

Bratislava was a fantastic city. One of my favourites so far. We played tourist for a few hours, looking at the beautiful architecture and soaking up the exotic ambiance of an East European city. For the single guys out there, the city also had the best looking women I’ve ever seen in one place. Ben and I agreed we had to leave or maybe we never would. For once, leaving the city proved to be pretty easy as we just headed for the Danube and carried on East.

We spent the night in a small town called Sap and pitched on the local football pitch which the locals generously offered to us instead of continuing to the next camp site. As it was going to be our last day cycling together, we treated ourselves to a meal at a local restaurant. Everything is much cheaper since I left the EU and I had baked salmon, two desserts and two beers all for about 4 quid. As a bonus the people were also friendly with a local beauty translating the menu for us as both mine and Ben’s Slovakian is a bit lacking. Best food I’d eaten since leaving the UK but tbf it was mainly up against pasta and the like.

Crossed over into Hungary

The day after and I was in Budapest. Three European capitals in four days. tbh I made a bit of a mistake as I arrived there around three in the afternoon so didn’t have as much time as I’d have liked. It’s a fantastic city and the people were incredibly friendly for a big city. Three groups of people approached me separately, asking me questions and offering well wishes on my journey. At one point I was trying to hold a conversation with two groups of people as others would overhear and come and listen. Earlier in my trip, people always commented on how far I had to go and how little I’d done but now the miles are increasing, the emphasis has changed to an interest of where I’ve been. One guy in Budapest even gave me some money as good luck for the road ahead. Maybe that’s what got me out of Budapest as it’s a tough city to leave. The roads are pretty busy and not really designed for cyclists so I had to have my Bradford Road awareness head in full operation. It didn’t help when my front rack broke and I needed to do some emergency repairs on the road side.


Budapest 2

As a cycle route, Hungary has been great. It’s as flat as a pancake and yesterday was another 100 mile day. I saw a campsite on the map and promised myself I’d treat myself if it was after the 100 mile mark. Turned out to be 99 miles so I carried on another few miles and slept in the forest. I must have chosen to sleep near some kind of local lovers lane as cars kept pulling up and I’d hear giggling and talking before driving off (presumably she said no). Last night was also the first night I chanced sleeping under the stars since Denmark as the weather has been awesome. Luckily no rain and a good night’s sleep. The people of Hungary have also been very accommodating regardless of the language barrier.

Hopefully the flat terrain will continue. I haven’t seen a hill since Amberg in South Germany and it’s been bliss. The downside is I reckon my legs have forgotten what a steep hill feels like and I’m hoping they don’t complain too much when called back into action. I’ve had a quick look at the map and I reckon south Serbia and Montenegro is when the hills start and then continue all the way into Greece. I have a friendly face to meet up with in Greece which is something to look forward to.

Not sure when I’ll hit Athens but I’m reckoning on 10 days. I’m still undecided about India as doing the sums, even if I cycle round SE Asia 10 times I’d still get to Oz too early for the end of the rainy season. I’m considering doing the opposite and heading straight to SE Asia from Athens and then trying to get to Oz before the rainy season starts. This would have the obvious disadvantage of cycling Oz in the summer, but would also mean I’m doing NZ at a more pleasant time of year and then across the States in the spring. Then I’d probably come back through Europe from Spain or Portugal, through France and then England. I’m still undecided but I’m leaning in this direction as the idea of having to slow down just doesn’t appeal to me. I love putting the big miles in and I’d rather continue in this vein rather than just feel I’m passing the time.

Catch you all later. A border post manned by what will no doubt be an incredibly unfriendly man awaits me.

Lots of love as always Craig.


Greetings from Bratislava capital of Slovakia

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006


Yo dudes and dudettes,

Greetings from Bratislava capital of Slovakia!!!

Thought I’d send another email as I guess the northern European leg of my journey is over as I now enter Southern Europe specifically the Balkans.

As irony would have it, since my last email I’ve done nothing but meet people. I guess it was to be expected as the Danube Cycle route is a cycling mecca and so the opportunities increase exponentially. The cycle route itself is fantastic. Over a thousand miles of flat, mostly tarmac extending from south-west Germany to Budapest. The German section appears to be a favourite holiday route for families and it’s not unusual to see entire families including grandparents and kids. As an introduction to touring it’s ideal with beautiful cities and historic sites all along the route as well as plenty of camp sites and rooms for rent.

In Passau I met a dutch guy and we spent the night drinking and talking cycling. Interesting bloke who broke up with the love of his life four years ago and decided he wanted some time out and has been cycling round Europe since. Seems a common theme that massive cycling tours start with something sad.


On the way out of Passau I hooked up with a French bloke called Ben and we’ve been cycling together since. It’s been good to have the company and it’s also helped on the cycling front as we share the lead and managed 105 miles on our first day together. The contrast between the two of us is interesting. He’s basically has a tent, a duvet and a few days clothing. I almost feel embarrassed when I pull out my state of the art camping equipment. I cooked him his first hot meal in two weeks as he basically survives on bread, cheese and tomatoes. He’s also a lot more forward then me and is happy to ask people if we can camp in their garden over night. Being typically French he has no real idea where he’s going. I think today we’re going to go our separate ways as he heads back home via Zagreb and I head down to Budapest.

Linz Circus

Last night we met two Austrian women. We’d stopped off in a small town to ask for water at a house. We were going to ask if we could pitch in the garden but it was a B&B and it felt a bit cheeky. As we were leaving town we saw two women, one whose bicycle had a puncture. Being the man carrying the entire world I offered to fix the puncture as they were on a short tour so weren’t carrying any equipment. They were also looking for a room and I pointed them in the direction of the B&B we’d been given water. I then had the bright idea of getting them to ask the owner if we could pitch in the garden as we all know men are a sucker for a pretty female. Obviously the guy agreed and so we had a prime bit of camping for the night. Afterwards we joined the girls for dinner (after they suggested we shower) and they insisted on paying for the meal. As usual, the bar had the standard local drunk who insisted on singing Bob Dylan songs to us and inviting us to a party which we had to decline as I suspect the party consisted of just him. I told him I was trying to break the world record for solo cycling round the world so had to be up early. It just goes to show what a single act of kindness can achieve good company, good food and a cracking night.


More Vienna

Even more Vienna

Yesterday we also did a quick tourist tour of Vienna. Another beautiful city but like Hamburg a bit too city. I prefer Bratislava as, apart from being cheaper, it seems a lot more personal. I’ll probably head out from Bratislava this afternoon down to Budapest. Being on my own again will be difficult to get used to as it has been enjoyable having someone to ride with. I guess the Danube trail has been a break for me from the usual hardship of hills and sleeping in the forest. After Budapest it’s down to Athens which I’ll approach from the north-east and then fly to India. The weather also seems to have improved as I’ve headed south which was my intention from the start. Chasing the sun.

Bye to Vienna

I may have a few days off in Greece. Maybe lie on the beach and read while I wait for my flight to India. We’ll see as always. One thing that this is teaching me is that anything can happen so plans need to be pretty loose. The miles keep clocking up and I’ve done just under 2000 miles.

I’m off to see the sights of Bratislava with Ben the Frenchman now before we say our farewells.

Catch you all later and as always lots of love.



Honoury Hell’s Angel

Saturday, August 19th, 2006


Up until a few nights ago I’d say my memory of Germany would have consisted mainly of rain. Lots and lots of rain. The campers amongst you would know that rain is your enemy. Everything gets wet and then it stays wet. You never get to dry anything so, at night, you just get back into your wet tent, on your wet mattress into your damp sleeping bag. Then you get up and cycle in your wet clothes on your wet bike. You get the picture. On more than a few nights I haven’t been able to find anywhere to pitch the tent so it’s a case of climbing under the tarpaulin and trying to get some sleep which, once it starts raining, just doesn’t work. To get round this I bought a bivvy bag. Basically a waterproof sleeping bag. Easier to pitch and requires much less ground space. Turned out to be an inspired buy because it hasn’t rained during the night since. Just rained lots during the day. Now I need a bivvy bag for cycling in.

On the cycling front it’s also been a lot tougher than Denmark or Sweden. It’s been difficult to keep up my target of 60 miles a day as the landscape has taken on an almost Norwegian feel to it but without the 16 hours of sunlight so I’ve had less cycling time. The hills have been short, sharp and painful. An analogy I thought of while riding was that it reminded me of a time when I was a kid and I got trapped in the surf break in Durban. Everytime a wave hit me and I’d come up for air, there’d be another waiting for me , looming, ready to break. That’s what the hills felt like In South Germany.

On a personal note it’s been tough. It’s mainly my fault for picking a non-tourist route and for not learning German. It’s been very difficult to meet people and that, coupled with the rain and the hills meant I’ve had a few of those wtf am I doing moments. My idea has been to initiate a plan I call the Pob plan. It’s a bit like town twinning but of some actual use. The idea is that each town nominates a group of Pobs. Their basic role is to ensure that if a foreign visitor turns up in the town then a Pob is called upon to meet him in the pub. From there they get drunk together and then in true Pob style they just shout at each other so language becomes irrelevant. After 4 pints or so they basically speak the same langauage anyway. The night will end with the foreigner being invited round for a night of poker where he’s fleeced for a fiver or two.

On the subject of rain it was the rain that led to one of the more bizzare nights of my life. I’d been riding in the rain as per usual except this was torrential to the point I couldn’t see where I was going. I took cover under a tree in this field that contained a massive tent. German heavy metal music was coming from the tent so I figured I’d stay pretty much where I was. I was just about to leave and Rolling Stones started playing and I figured what the hell, anyone playing Rolling Stones has to be half decent maybe they’d let me camp there for the night. Went round to ask the question and it turns out I’ve walked into what appears to be a Hell’s Angel meet. About 20 bikers standing there looking as hard as nails. I can’t back out now so I ask the question and luckily a couple of them speak English so they agree on the condition I sit and have a beer with them. “No I’ll just camp thanks” didn’t really seem to be on the cards so I figure wtf, in for a penny and all that.

Leader of ze pack

Turns out to be one of the best nights of my trip so far. Nicest bunch of blokes you could wish to meet. The president was hammered but seemed to take a shine to me and even though he couldn’t speak a word of English, after 4 double JDs, neither could I so we just said cheers all night and kept knocking them back. Every time I had an empty glass someone would bring me a drink. At one point I had three glasses of booze and two plates of food in front of me. On top of that they even gave me my own tent so I didn’t even have to pitch. We stayed up till 2ish singing German songs as by this time I was fluent in German and generally having a cracking time. This was the type of thing I’d come for. German unification was discussed and it was great to hear how people feel about it. The differences between the older guys who felt East German and the younger who felt German. These guys loved their bikes as well and I was given a full tour of pretty much every bike with the differences and reasoning for the differences explained. Later on in the night they made me an honoury member and gave me the badge of the club to be sewn on my panniers at a later date. In the morning I set off and they’d keep motoring past me shouting “Englishman” and generally scaring the shit out of me.

Burn baby burn

Since then it’s been mainly hard riding again. I’m currently averaging about 400 plus miles a week. After the hills of Southern Germany I joined up with the Danube trail at Regensburg which is a cycling mecca. It’s hundreds of miles of flat cycle path which follows the River Danube all the way from South West Germany to Budapest. I haven’t had a day off the bike since Gothenberg but last night, I found a great little campsite in the centre of Passau and decided to give myself a full day off before I head out into Austria in the morning. I’ll probably stop off again in Vienna and then it’s a case of deciding whether I want to head down into Italy or the Balkans. The Balkans seem favourite at the moment as this would negate the need for a ferry across to Greece.

Campsite in Passau

Church in Passau

The speed of my progess has led a few people to question if I’m giving myself enough time to enjoy what I’m doing. tbh it’s also the sense of achievement of putting the miles away that I’m enjoying. I know when I reach the right place I’ll take a breather. I knew Hamburg wasn’t the right place. It’s a great city but too cold, too city. Today for example I’m going to play the tourist. Passau is a beautiful city built where three rivers join and has what looks to be a great cafe culture. More importantly it has some bookshops which I’m hoping have enough English books to get me to Vienna. I finished my John Irving book yesterday and one thing the lone traveller needs is a good supply of reading material. Then I’m going to hit the cafes and sit, read and watch the world go by.


I’m still enjoying what I’m doing. It’s different to how I imagined. It’s much tougher for one and I’m aware it’ll get tougher. The thing is that I know I can do it and tbh that’s a great feeling. Everyday holds the potential for something different although in Germany it’s usually just been rain but hey it can’t all be fun and games. The interesting thing is the appreciation it gives you for the smallest things. I kind gesture from a stranger, a conversation, a piece of music, a sunny day. Everything just feels more important. I’m still not sure how this will end. I mean how it’ll effect me. In terms of distance I’m around 10% of the way through so I’ve tried to analyse how it’ll change me if at all but I’m still not sure. When I started I thought it’d change me into someone who was more inclined to seek people out. Less introverted. I don’t think it’s going to be like that though. I’ll still be the guy who sits and watches people. It’s just the way I am and maybe this is more about accepting that than changing it. We’ll see.

Apologies for the introspective nature of this email but as I said at the start this is also for me. I’ll look back at these email and it’ll be interesting to identify how I felt and why. I gues that’s the defintion of an introvert. Someone who looks inside for the answers.

Anyways catch you guys later. Once again a cafe awaits me.

Love Craig.


Greetings from Hamburg

Thursday, August 10th, 2006

Yo all,

Greetings from Hamburg!!!

New country and a new keyboard. Damned Germans have moved the keys around again.

Man Gothberg seems like years ago but alas it isn’t.

Well my day in Goteberg was brilliant. Luckily my alcohol tolerance has dropped to zero. I say luckily because at 5 pound a beer you don’t to be spending too long in the pub. I met a cool Swedish cyclist and we sat and compared notes for a while and judged the Miss Sweden on a Bike contest that was obviously going on while we were in town. You can see why so many people cycle because it really is the best way to watch all the beautiful women on bikes. I treated myself to a Chinese afterwards which after a week of canned food and bananas was heaven.

On the way out of Goteberg two lovely swedish women in a car asked me if I needed a lift. maybe they were joking or maybe they just wanted to use me as their sex toy all the way down to Malmo but being the dutiful round the world cyclist I am, I declined their admittedly tempting offer.

After Goteberg I arrived at Varberg were the ferry leaves for Denmark. Originally I’d intended to cycle down to Malmo and then go across to Copenhagen but when I arrived in Varberg the ferry was leaving in 15 min and it seemed like a sign. On hindsight it was probably just a ferry but off I went to Denmark anyway.


I originally intended to then cycle round to Copenhagen to meet up with Jorgi but it turned out she couldn’t get there till the 13th which would have meant about 3 or 4 days hanging around an incredibly expensive city which I just couldn’t afford so I scrapped those plans and headed for Germany.

I enjoyed Scandinavia a lot. Their approach to life is incredibly relaxed. For starters their day seems to start so much later than our own. Even in Goteberg on a Friday morning at 9am the place was still quiet. Only at about 11 did life start picking up.

On the cycling front it’s one of the best places I’ve ever cycled. Their approach to traffic is entirely logical in that the most vulnerable tend to have the right of way so the pedestrians are more important the cyclists but the cyclists are more important than the cars. It isn’t a half-arsed approach like we have in the UK where someone paints a few lines on the side of the road at inappropriate places and then the cars just park in the cycle lane anyway. It’s all carefully thought out and hangs together perfectly. The effect this has on the community as a whole is obvious as people are always out and about on their bikes or walking. The stop and talk, they cycle as families, they spend time together. I think in the UK by becoming a car culture we’ve surrendered our communities and now people are scared of the world outside their houses and their cars.


Entering Germany has been a new a different challenge for me. For one the sheer number of people mean many more towns and towns are an obstacle for a cyclist. Each town entered has to be exited and you’d be amazed how difficult it is to leave a town by bicycle. Most towns are designed for cars and so numerous exits aren’t an option for me which has meant a lot of lost time just navigating my way around. The other difficulty is that they seem to operate a very similar system of land ownership to the UK so most land is fenced off or farmed. This combined with the number of towns obviously reduces my options for wild camping. Last night I found a good spot after about 50 miles but I wanted to press on past 70 miles for the day so carried on only to struggle for a spot. Then it started raining. I found a spot in the end but I’d lost the light so it was just a case of crawling under my tarpaulin, try and stay dry and get what kip I could. It’s another lesson really that I should try and do more of my cycling in the early part of the day so I don’t feel the need to press on so late.

It’s all lessons learn’t. On hindsight I think I bivvy bag would have been a much better idea than a tent. Most nights I don’t bother with the tent as it’s too visible and just takes up too much space on the ground. The idea initially was that I’d be spending so much time in a tent that I’d be thankful for the additional space but in practice it hasn’t turned out like that. I just stop cycling, get to sleep and then start cycling again. I bivvy would have been more suited I feel. At some point I may send the tent back to the UK and buy a bivvy bag. We’ll see.


As for the future, Germany is a big country and I don’t think I’ll be able to blast through it like I have the other countries. In a way that’s a shame as I find cycling over a border to be great motivation. I expect Germany to take me around two weeks to cover as I’m covering it from North to South which is going to around 1000 miles in total. Then I’ll head to Austria and then Italy. Just take it as it comes.

Entering the euozone has also meant a serious reduction in prices. I found it impossible to keep to my tenner a day target in Scandinavia but in Germany 6 pound a day has proven to be the norm. This also means I may be able to up the number of days I use campsites which is useful for keeping both myself and my equipment in good condition. More importantly I can now afford the odd beer.

Tomorrow is my intended rest day so I’ll head south from Hamburg today and then find a camp site tomorrow and spend a day resting and do some equipment maintenance.

Catch you all later,

Love Craig.


Greetings from Gothenberg

Friday, August 4th, 2006

Crossing into Sweden

Mmmmmmm well the more geographically aware people will have noticed I’m a bit further than anticipated. Since I last emailed from Larvik I’ve averaged around the 70 mile mark per day. Number of reasons for this. For one Sweden is thankfully been a bit flatter than Norway. For two I’ve had a tail wind since the Swedish border and so I decided to make some hay. My rest day was supposed to be yesterday but I decided to take my rest day when I hit Gothenberg as aside from being a bit more interesting than nowhere, nowheresville, it’d allow me to do a bit of Craig admin. I’ve booked into a camping site just outside the city and now I’m treating myself a bit. I’ve cycled almost 500 miles since last Friday and tbh when your time is divided between cycling, camping and eating you don’t get much of a chance to meet people and so a day in the city was called for.

My current rate of progress does give me a couple of problems. At my current rate I’ll hit Australia far too early so I’ve changed plans slightly. I’m going to head for India after Europe because this will put a few months between me and Oz. My plan is to get out of Europe as fast as
possible. Mainly because it’s just too expensive. Any notion of some time off the bike just isn’t viable at the moment whereas a week off in Asia isn’t going to break the bank as much. I’ve also changed my mind about getting a ferry to Denmark once again for cost reasons. Instead I’m going to cycle from here to Malmo and then cross over to Denmark for free. Hopefully that’ll be perfect timing to meet up with Jorg.

Since Larvik it’s been mainly tough cycling and tough camping. When I started off I said I’d treat this as a 9-5 job which has proven to be a bit naive as it implied cycling followed by watching Eastenders. It’s really nothing like that. The main problem is that in reality I’m not a tourist and I don’t have tourist money. My day is more like start cycling at 9 and finish at 9 with a couple of breaks thrown in to get food and eat and then I start looking for somewhere to sleep. I’d say the wild camping aspect of it has been the toughest for me. My fitness of probably at a stage now where I can cycle all day without too much discomfort. The tough bit is really not knowing where I’m going to sleep that night. I start looking for places around 9 at night as this minimises the time I’m visible before darkness. Obviously by the same token I have to make sure I buy my food at the right time as if I buy the night’s food too early then I have to carry it till I make camp. Too late and I may have missed the last shop. I’ve also taken to carrying a 5 litre bottle of water which apart from making to bike even heavier gives me a lot more leeway for any mistakes. It’s all a learning curve and a very satisfying one at that. I can feel things just clicking into place as I rise to the challenge.

When I started I was following the North Sea cycle route. I abandoned this idea somewhere after the border. Mainly because in essense it’s a tourist route designed to take you to places where the price of an ice cream makes you wonder if they misunderstood my question as “can I buy your entire town please”. The other reason is that when I arrived in Sweden I just couldn’t
find a map. I asked at a petrol station and he suggested I try Stromstad. I had to point out that I needed a map to get to Stromstad. I eventually got one but only after accidently wandering onto the E6 which is the same as our M1. It’s not as bad as it sounds because the drivers here in the main are fantastic. The give you plenty of room and are very courteous. It was here I found a map. This is probably better as following a preplanned tourist route isn’t viable in the long term so I may as well start now.


As for people I’ve met I was pretty lucky to have met a German guy called Chris who as luck would have it lives on the Danube cycle route which is on my route. He was on his way to Bergen with his gf and I suggested that rather than double back to Oslo maybe he could circle round to England. He’d been an exchange student and said that the family he’d stayed with weren’t very clean and we had a laugh at national stereotypes. I was going to suggest that maybe it’s because he bombed their chippy but then I remembered the Fawlty Towers sketch and kept that one to myself. We’ve exchanged numbers and I’ve got a place to stay and some cold beers when I reach Tootling. I have no idea if that’s how you spell it but I prefer there’s something quaint about my spelling so I’m sticking with it.

Um yeah a bridge

Apart from that it’s just been the usual encounters where people ask me where I’m going, I tell them and they tell me I’m mad. There something satisfying about the Scandanavians telling you you’re mad. Now I just need the Italians to tell me I’m a passionate hopeless romantic and my life is complete.

Streets of Gothenberg

Tonight I’m going to wander the streets of Gothenberg and just enjoy being amongst people before I head off around 11ish tomorrow. Buy an English newspaper and watch the world go by. I’m forcing myself to have 24hrs off the bike as the legs have taken a bit of a hammering since Kristiansand. I feel strong but I don’t want to push it.

This is pretty much my second week at this and yes it is tougher than I imagined. Yes I’ve had to come up with little aims and goals to keep myself going. Yes I’ve started talking to myself but it’s good intelligent conversation. It is enjoyable though and it is rewarding as I improve both physically and mentally.

As an side I think I’ve found a cure for life going by too fast. I know to you guys it feels like I sent an email a few days ago but to my it feels like a lifetime. At this rate I’ll have lived 100 lifetimes in the next 18 months.

Anyways I best go as a street side cafe and a newspaper has my name on it somewhere.

Catch you guys later,

Love Craig.