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Kingdom of bicycles and a stupendous adventure (6 April 2004)

Overlooking Lugu lake from cafe

It all began here looking across the freezing waters of Lugu lake, on the Yunnan-Sichuan border, China. Ting and I had been cycling together for two months since first meeting in Bangkok. 3700m pass before Lugu lake?The previous day we had trouble trying to cross a high pass in the snow while Ting was still recovering from an upset stomach. We decided for a rest day, and had leisurely breakfast in a fancy tourist cafe.

As we waited for the food to arrive I leafed through a magazine “Chinese Cultural Geography”. There were two articles that caught my attention. One was entitled “Kingdom of bicycles”, it was full of beautiful pictures of Chinese bicycles in action. This was part of the inspiration for another project where I collected photos of bikes I saw doing interesting stuff about Asia. The second was about an epic adventure back in 1907, known as the Peking to Paris Raid. Eleven adventurers had set out to cross Eurasia in those new-fangled things called automobiles. It was 97 years ago,   oh boy that sounded like an excuse for some new shenanigans.

New home, country and job (1 November 2005)

After a frantic series of phone interviews in pubs and camping grounds of the South Island, I was offered a job in Australia. Soon I was in Adelaide working on a  new solar cell technology, called SLIVER.

Whilst not in a lab I got stuck into building the first prototype bike for the trip. It was a trike, designed by Greenspeed. I named him King Willie. I eventually decided a trike wasn’t for me, and sold it to my friend Mick, who re-named him Blue Duck, and rode him to Alice Springs.

Let the welding begin!King Willie and Blacky

Back to the drawing board (7 October 2006)

Front Cowling The next plan was a short wheelbase recumbent. Ting already had one of these, after a chance meeting with Kevin Kao on a Taipei bicycle track. We bought a second one, which became FHL-1, the final Prototype for B2P. It was a great learning curve, I made several seats, and fiddled about with geometry and front cowling ideas.Design with Kevlar Tailbox
Then I was ready for the serious design work. Many long hours every evening on the computer before I ordered the tubing.

There was much panic as I learned that the 4130 chromoly tubesAll the bits arrived at last I wanted were out of stock from the supplier in Sydney. It wasn’t until January 2007 that they finally arrived. Just six months left to build two bikes.

The mad rush to 6 June (6 June 2007)

Welding the Head tube It was a particular crazy time in my life.  I now had not one but two highly demanding, creative and exciting projects to work on.  The other being my solar cell process, which was really quite interesting.  We were machining up a single silicon wafer into about 2000 little independent solar cells, then breaking them out to cover a much larger area on the panel.  It was an ambitious but beautiful concept.  It was also highly complex and far more difficult than was originally imagined. Looking back ten years later, I have yet to find another project anything like it.  And then at the end of the day I would come home and spend all evening working flat out on the bikes.  In the end it was a grueling race against the calendar.

There was lots of welding, sanding, filing etc to do on Laminating the seatthe frames, seats to make, and panniers to design and sew. I had both main tubes bent at once, no time for problems. While the tubes were at the benders I worked on first prototype seat.

I made a couple of serious mistakes. After my angle grinding accidentThe first was to set my “thinking chair” on fire with the welding torch. That was brought under control fairly quickly. The second was to use inadequate safety glasses. I ended up with a piece of steel embedded in the surface of my eye. It required a specialist with a needle to remove it. After this I bought better safety goggles, with rubber seals around the edges that push up into my skin.

Toronado was completed a few hours before Ting caught her early morning flight to Taipei in March. I slept for a few hours, then got stuck into finishing Fēng Huo Lún, which I finished about 10 hours before my own flight to Beijing, without ever testing under full load.

This left me with just enough time to pack up my flat and take a five minute rest before Bruce came to take me to the airport, at 03:00 on 6 June. I had missed two nights sleep already!

The media circus (written with hind-sight)

This event was all about celebrating car-free mobility, a century on from the original provocative challenge issued by the French automotive industry.  By 1907 the world had already been circumnavigated by bicycle several times and rail crossed most of Eurasia.  By 2007 (peak-car according to an article in The Guardian) there was still only one car for every 10 people, so most of us were getting along fine without them.

The story was mostly lost on the media,  I’ve clearly not mastered the dark art of publicity seeking.  We received almost no coverage in the English speaking press, including in New Zealand and Australia, where I put in the most effort.

We had the opposite problem in Taiwan, where we were widely covered on TV, print and on-line.  However I lost control of the message and the event was  distorted into things it never was.  I was particularly annoyed at a bizarre ambush marketing attempt and bullying by the UDN media network and the Louis Garneau bike brand.  Neither of these organisations contributed anything to our event or to our charity fund raising.

Cycle touring became the trendy thing from about that time in Taiwan. It would be nice to think we had at least some positive influence on that.

Beijing at last (7 June 2007)

The great Beijing airport midnight re-assemblyAlas I was unable to sleep well on the daytime flight from Australia. So I arrived in Beijing still missing two nights sleep. Ting’s flight from Taiwan was delayed, and it took us about two hours to assemble the bikes, so we didn’t get out of the airport until midnight.

It was my the first time to ride Fēng Huo Lún fully loaded. I discovered the pannier was rubbing on the rear wheel. Much of the ride into town I tried to hold it up with one arm, or some string wrapped under the bottom of the pannier.

Otherwise it was surprisingly nice. Little traffic at that time of night, and we were on nice wide bike paths most of the way.

Finally we reached the Huotong district, in the centre of Beijing at 03:00. It was my third night without sleep, I was almost falling off the bike. We checked into our hostel and collapsed on nice clean beds.

Welcome to the kingdom of bicycles (9 June 2007)

Olympic countdownWe spent the next three days being regular tourists. The rest of the team dribbled in, all of us staying in the old Huotong district. We visited the forbidden city, made plans for the departure day, and took many pictures from my collection.

Beijing was much more relaxed than I was expecting. Despite all the media hype about it being over-run with cars, it is still a big improvement over say Sydney or Auckland. Wide bike lanes lined the streets, shaded by big leafy trees, and the banning of petrol motorcycles made it much more pleasant than most other large Asian cities of similar size.

The whole team, 9 June 2007The only trouble we had was finding food. The government seems to have taken a disliking to street stalls. Which means that there was no longer anywhere simple to eat. The final night however the entire team assembled, and we were taken out to a fancy Xinjiang restaurant, by a kindly journalist from America.

Day 1: The departure (10 June 2007)

Assembled outside our hostel, then all together down to Tienmen square. Stopped for pictures outside the Forbidden City, then made a lap of the square, secretly filmed by a Taiwanese news crew.

Ready to go, Tienmen square 10 June 2007

Our plan of having a speech outside the Olympic countdown clock was foiled by nervous police, so we kept on going right out of the square.

A couple of blocks later I gave a little speech, first attempting it in Chinese, then resorting to English. From there the Greenway team headed south, Brendon Chou went back to sleep, and the rest of us went north for Inner Mongolia.

Inner Mongolia (20 June 2007)

We found our way out of Beijing along bike lanes, then headed up into the mountains. We somehow got lost and took a series of small roads, eventually rejoining route 110.

Crossing under the great wallInitially there were periods of heavy traffic, and we alternated between riding (illegally) on the highway, and peaceful stretches on 110, which was closed for re-surfacing. At a couple of points we found ourselves riding on wet tar, and on one occasion the entire team managed to race across freshly poured (hot) asphalt! It took about two hours to pick it off our tyres!

The coal trucks got bad at times, and we were using daytime riding lights, but the trucks disappeared, and the air cleared after Jining. From then on it was glorious flat cycling along the valley of the yellow river. We made 1200km in the first twelve days, despite rain delays, and a slow start.

Aaron and Frank with some trucksSu Chun and Candice in the dust.Dinner on day 3?

Day 12-15ish: Ning Xia Province (25 June 2007)

From Inner Mongolia we race along a narrow strip arable land between the Mu Us desert and the Gobi. Or plans were halted on day twelve when the heavens opened up and flooded the roads. We decided the time was right for our first rest.

Rest day in the rain

The school runOn reaching the capital, Yinchuan, and fluffing about looking for a hotel we were told of two mysterious Chinese searching for us. They had been alerted to our presence by one of the many bike shops we had stopped at while looking for spare disk brake pads. They turned out to be Dingbingning and his friend. Dingbingning was one of the first Chinese to sign up for B2P! He had dropped out later to start up his own bike shop.

img_0268.jpgThe following day we were given a rowdy send-off by Dingbingning and his local bike club, who rode with us for the first 20K out of town. The also helped fix a couple of bits on Frank’s bike, and set us up with a list of contacts in bike shops for our future destinations.

Father and daughterNing Xia turned out to be a pleasant interlude between the relatively harsh environments of inner Mongolia and Gansu. Combined with the friends we made there it was one of the highlights of the trip.

We turned off route 110 for the last time near Zhongwei, and took a short cut across the Tengger desert, to Wuwei, in Gansu.

Day 15-20ish: Gansu (30 June 2007)

Racing through the “Hallway”. This is a narrow strip of irrigated land hemmed between the Gobi desert and the towering Qilian Shan range, which guards the Qinghai-Tibet plateau.

Ting and Su-Chun racing down the hallwayWe had one day of excellent tail wind here, on which we set our new record of 190km. We also ran into some serious heat for the first time. Temperatures getting well into the high 30’s on a couple of occasions, and the road starting to melt.

The hallwayWe finished the hallway at a place known as the “reservoir of wind”, then struck out across the Gobi and carried on into the mountains that separate Xinjiang from eastern China.

The great wall (not the touristed part) Su Chun and the great wallFrank rides the hallway

Day 31: Somewhere in Xinjiang (11 July 2007)

We’ve gone 3700km, just clinging to schedule. After Gansu we rolled down the mountains into the heat of the Hami basin. We clocked up our biggest day yet, 225km. One kilometre short of my own personal best! Thwarted in the end by a roaring head wind. The last twenty km took about two hours!

Near the Xinjiang-Gansu border

Ting riding the Hami Basin

After we left the desert Hami wasn’t actually so hot. The real test came later as we rode through the “mountains of fire” down into the Turpan basin, 150m below sea level. Here it was hot even at night time. Legend has it that you can cook an egg just by leaving it on the sand in those mountains.

From Turpan the team split in half. It was great while it lasted, but Ting and I were of to Kyrgystan, and Frank and Su Chun headed directly for Kazakhstan.

We ran into trouble immediately, in the form of a 45 knot cross wind, right when Ting and I opted to take a short cut across the basin on an unsealed road. We spent three hours fighting the wind to get less than twenty km before reaching shelter, by which time all our water was exhausted.

From here it was quite good riding, though we struck cross winds from time to time. The bikes actually worked quite well when it was moderate and the road was sealed.

Day 44: Near the China-Kyrgyz border – 4829km (23 July 2007)

We had a dream run across Xinjiang. Reaching the western-most city of Atushi 39 days after Beijing.

Last day in the desert

Our new record stands at 230km in a single day. On that occasion we could go no further as we rode straight into a ferocious dust storm. We camped in a ditch beside the road, sheltered from the wind.

As we were four days ahead of the start date of our Kyrgyz visa we took a rest in the beautiful town of Atushi. We found this place much more relaxed than Kashgar (where we stayed on a previous expedition). The police still force foreigners into the two most expensive hotels, something to do with “terrorism” they say. But with hind-sight, twelve dollars per night for a three star hotel isn’t really worth whinging about.

From Atushi we headed up into the Tienshan range. Here the temperature plummeted and it poured with rain. Our desert clothing was woefully inadequate. All I had to keep dry was a PVC poncho I had bought in Inner Mongolia. We managed to find an abandoned mud-hut to shelter in for the night, before the final push into Kyrgyzstan.

Crossing a flooded riverWarming up in the mud hutBeautiful morning

Day 55: The Kyrgyz-Kazakh border – 5820km (3 August)

First day riding in KyrgyzstanTing and I had a pretty rough time in Kyrgyzstan, though the mountain scenery was spectacular. Our lack of warm cloths or a tent didn’t help, but the main problems were more anthropogonic.

Our second night in the country the guesthouse we were staying at in Sari Tash tried to steal our video camera. We got it back but didn’t notice until later that we also lost some film footage from China. After this we decided to camp more.

Riding past the PamirsThe following night the weather was bad, so we stayed at a lousy hotel in Goucha. Having hauled our bikes into our room up two flights of stairs we were informed that we would have to pay for an extra bed for the bikes. These hotels had no running water, the beds were impossible to sleep on and were at least twice as expensive as those in China. It was the last hotel we used in Kyrgyzstan.

Near the Pamirs

The roads were incredibly rough with big stones and holes and the driving pretty random. When we did get to smooth roads the cars weaved about imaginary potholes, but now faster. Sometimes they would overtake two at a time, so we were faced with a wall of three cars coming toward us.

The hydro power resevior system

We weren’t hit by any of these cars, but I did crash. I hit large rock when going down a hill at 45km/h. Rocks like these are used as wheel-chocks by truck drivers, who then drive off without removing them from the road. I bent my front forks back 50mm, and dented the rim. Amazingly there was no other damage except skin, and the rim was still true!

First rim to crackThe first of our four rims cracked soon though. Within a week the other three all had cracks too. This was mostly my own fault for re-drilling the Presta valves into Schrader ones. All of them cracked around the re-drilled valve hole.

The worst night was near the Otmok pass. Ting and I had teamed up with two European cyclists, Bolazs and Toon and were camping out in the open. They had a spare tent! At 0200, in the freezing cold (alt. 2900m) two drunk herdsmen came to hassle us. They started shaking the tents and threatening us. Ting stayed inside while Bolazs and Toon and I got out and drove them away. But this wasn’t the end of the story. An hour later I heard a rustle outside the tent. By the time I got out the scoundrels were 100m away, running through the darkness. I gave chase, but they got away, taking with them two panniers belonging to Bolazs and Toon. It was a disaster for Bolazs and Toon, but Ting and I were lucky not to loose anything.

Ala-Bel pass, 3184mThe next day we parted ways, Bolazs and Toon headed for the police down in Bishkek, whilst Ting and I made for the Kazakh border. When I last heard from Toon he had made it all the way to Chengdu, and Bolazs had survived Pakistan.

Our final two days in Kyrgyzstan were a complete contrast. We were in the Tallas valley, geographically separated from the rest of the country. People stopped throwing stones at us and started buying us gifts. What a difference a mountain pass can make!

We crossed through customs hassle free and were soon in Kazakhstan, in search of some spare wheels.

Day 65: Aral’sk (In the glorious nation of Kazakhstan) – 7028km (13 August 2007)

It looked like this for most of the way across Kazakhstan. Though the condition of the road was marginally better at times.

Riding the steppe

Camping by a graveyardWe did have a rather memorable time though, despite the 23 days of head wind, heat, sun, no shelter and weird road surfaces. Most of the people we met were extraordinarily nice to us. I guess they don’t have a lot of tourists in these parts.

Ting riding the Mongolian SteppeI purchased two spare wheels in a bazaar in Taraz. We then had another day of moderate conditions and nice scenery to Shymkent. From Shymkent it became clear that my vision of riding along a beautiful river valley of the Sirdariya was terribly flawed. It was hot dry desert all the way, and we only saw the river two or three times.

Horrible road surfaceI was hit by a truck the day after Shymkent, which dampened my spirits a little. I had a painfully bruised arm, and the Kevlar in my seat sustained some minor but worrying damage.

The truck hit me because he couldn’t be bothered slowing down half a second when overtaking, while another vehicle was coming from in front, in the middle of a long straight road in a desert.

Idiot drivers of KazakhstanOn a different occasion I happened to be taking a picture when two cars overtook a truck at the same time, one on each side, one in the gravel verge, all of them going fast around a corner, towards me.

We reached Aral’sk early on day 65, so took a few hours rest. Aralsk was once a fishing town, but thanks to the catastrophic over-exploitation of the Aral sea for cotton growing it is now surrounded by more desert.  Fishing boats sitting on dry land remind us of its former status.Fishing boats of Aral’sk

Having camped almost every day since Taraz we took the luxury of a former “intourist” hotel. Complete with the soviet backward facing toilet bowl and once-functioning air conditioner.

Day 84: Leaving Saratov, Russia (28 August 2007)

Drinking wellTing taking a siestaFrom Aral’sk to Saratov the wind, sun and road conditions were relentless. Every day was a struggle to keep to schedule. We briefly thought it was getting cooler, but then from Aktobe it became hot again. At least there were trees lining the road most of the time now, and the occasional river. We had left the real desert, but it was still hot dry steppe.

TV crew, north KazakhstanThe day after Aktobe Ting became sick, we could go no further. She rested under a tree, near a river, while I went off to find food. Ting had a fever.

The Russian border provided no relief. After a three hour crossing process, during which numerous officials tried unsuccessfully to find ways to extract money from us, we were in Russia.

Saratov produce marketLittle changed, except the drivers were somehow worse than before. We thought about getting on a train at this point. It was really just too dangerous. Drivers in both directions were going much to fast and constantly overtaking one another. Oncoming traffic would be constantly moving into our path while overtaking, expecting us to scramble off the road.

Elina’s FamilyOn reaching Saratov, it was time for a rest. Luck provided us with just the place. We stayed with Elina Barskova and her family, in their beautiful two-storied home with a lovely garden. We had planned on staying just two days, but at the end of the second we were still exhausted.

Saratov Technical UniversityMuch of the time had been used shopping. The city was quite beautiful, with nice old buildings everywhere, and a large produce market near the center. So we stayed a third day, this time taking a real rest. By the time we left we felt we had the strength to make it to Ukraine.

Day 92: Sumi, Ukraine (10 September 2007)

Sumi town centreRussia continued to be dangerous and stressful, but then suddenly it was all over and we were in Ukraine. The traffic vanished and we pedaled our way into a nice pine forest for a great night of camping.

The next morning we awoke to heavy rain and a bitterly cold north westerly. It had been cold since leaving Saratov, it was time I bought a rain jacket. We cycled for three hours and stopped in a beautiful city called Sumi.

Beautiful ChurchWe located ourselves in a nice warm but ancient hotel room, and went in search of food and clothes, and a bicycle shop. Our defective Schwalbe Marathons had been giving us endless headaches since the very beginning. One finally blew out as the steel bead snapped. It had only done about 300km! Now I was in desperate need of both a spare tyre and spare inner tubes.  (As an aside, and in fairness it does appear that Schwalbe were just going through a bad run at the time, I’ve since met at least one other cyclist that noticed the same thing.  However they seem to have recovered, I’ve actually gone back to using them.)

Bike shop at lastWe strolled about the quiet streets of Sumi and found all the things we needed quite easily. Our Ukraine adventure was off to a brilliant start. This was the first bike shop we had found since leaving China.

We hadn’t seen many other bikes in Russia at all, it was nice to see them again. The traffic had behaved its self since the border too.

Day 99: Kovel, Ukraine (near Poland) – 10,303km (17 September 2007)

Ukraine turned out to be another highlight of the trip. Much of this due to a chance meeting with two mysterious German cyclists back in Russia. They were on their way to Siberia (in winter!) and had just ridden the exact opposite of our direction to Dresden. They furnished us with a map of Poland, and their expert knowledge of the current road conditions ahead.

Day 3 in Ukraine

From Sumi to Kiev we were on a quiet road, through beautiful small villages and nice peaceful scenery. Roads were lined with apple trees, which were at just the right time of season. We supplemented our diet of apples with plentiful ice cream stops. It turns out that Ukrainians are nuts about ice creams. A typical convenience store would have two or three freezers full of them.

Ukrainian IcecreamApple treesDignified gentleman on bicycle at the village market.

Kiev was a bit of a drag, like any city of this size, but we had already been armed with an exit strategy. Unlike our team-mates Arnold and Marieke, we headed slightly north, aiming to reach Poland near Chelm. There was little traffic all the way to Kovel, thanks to the closure of the road for a surface upgrade. We had our own private, brand new road for 100km. Traffic didn’t really get busy until the last 50K to the border.

Beautiful Church

Our last night in Ukraine was in the beautiful town of Kovel, staying at some version of Ukrainian youth hotel. It was the only time in the whole of our stay in the former soviet union that we managed to get our bikes into a hotel room. (Having done this almost every day in China)

We would have liked to stay longer, especially since we hadn’t had a rest day since Saratov, and Ting had caught a cold. However this would make the rest of the trip tougher, so reluctantly we made for the border.

Day 104: Czestochowa, Poland – 10,780km (21 September 2007)

The land of icecreamScenery is just getting better and better. Poland was beautiful all the way since the border. We have been weaving our way along quiet country roads through small villages. The map we were given by our mystery German friends has their route marked on it, avoiding all the big cities.

Small polish village with very clean toilets

Village inside castle wallsPolish drivers are more polite than their Australian counter-parts, and we are having a lovely time. The only exception was on our way into Czestochowa, when a car did a Russian style high speed overtaking with oncoming traffic. This time it hit the oncoming traffic instead of me, which was a nice change. I cleared off the broken wing mirrors while the car that had been hit did a U turn and chased the one that caused the accident. It got away.

Oktawian’s houseOn reaching Czestochowa we managed to get ourselves lost, and were wasting a lot of precious time. This is one of the reasons we try to avoid big cities (the other being the traffic). But along came Oktawian Ciez to the rescue. A fellow cycle tourist and rock climber, reminded me of a slightly younger version of myself. He invited us back to his place, where we spent the night.

MonastryWe left in the morning carrying two jars of home made polish soup, and one metre of Polish sausage, made by his uncle, who lives in the mountains. Ting and I are actually vegetarians back home, but we had put it on hold for precisely occasions like this. Oktawian gave us a brief tour of a 700 year old monastery before leading us out of town on the road we were looking for.

Day 109: Dresden, Germany – 11,258km (26 September 2007)

Now that’s an icecream

At last some civilized food!

Poland continued to be wonderful, as was the weather. We raced on to Germany. This border crossing took about 10 seconds for me, a mere wave of my British passport and it was “Willkommen nach Deutschland”. For Ting it was slightly more complicated, taking nearly a minute for them to find the rubber stamp and thump it onto her Schengen visa.

Robert and Mariam’s homeFrom there we called upon fellow world-traveller Ruth Fuchs, whom we had met in South Australia. She arranged for us to stay with her friends Robert and Mariam, and family in their 500 year old restored apartment in the centre of Gorlitz.

Wind turbines GermanyThe next day, after touring some of the town’s fascinating buildings, and cursing it’s many cobble stones we were en route for our rest stop with Ruth in Dresden.

But by this time Ting’s health was getting better but mine was deteriorating. Along with that the weather packed in. It rained most of the way to Dresden. We arrived tired and cold, and looking forward to the first rest since Saratov.

Beautiful bike stands in GorlitzWe actually stayed two days. Gambling our last rest day on the hope of avoiding the worst of the weather. From here we had twelve days to make it to Paris. We bought the last of our wet-weather gear from a fancy German bike shop, and planned our route in detail, with the help of Ruth’s vast library of maps. We were all set for the final sprint across western Europe.

Olly and Ruth in Dresden

Day 118: The One Fahrt Campingplatz, Konz, Germany – 12,138km. (5 October 2007)

Riding beside the Elbe

Flooded cyclewayFrom Dresden we headed slightly north to Leipzig, under pouring rain. It continued to rain for most of the next day, as we passed weaved around flooded roads to Weimer. We arrived late at Weimer and my second piece of sh#@$ Schwalbe marathon tyre had blown out. The next morning we were so tired we didn’t get away until 10:00. It took a further three days to catch up to schedule.

Lahn river cycle path?Then the weather cleared from Weimer on, and we weaved our way across Germany to Giessen. From here we had the luxury of river-side cycle paths all the way to France! We raced along beside the Lahn, then Rhine, then finally the wine-growing region in the valley of the Mosel.

Cycling the MoselOur last two nights in Germany were in the luxury of real camping grounds, with hot showers and flat soft grass to sleep on and a tree to keep the dew off my sleeping bag.  The tent was so small it was more comfortable to sleep outside if there was no rain.

One fart per customer please

Day 122: Clay Souilly (Edge of Paris) – 12553km
(9 October 2007)

Nice camping in French countryside

Camping in FranceFrance was just fantastic. No cycle paths, just quiet country lanes, and the occasional bigger road, all with safe, slow, patient drivers, to within 50km of Paris.

The sky was blue and the wind moderate, though the mornings were very cold. It took until about midday for my feet to thaw, and a bit longer for Ting.

Nice houseOur only struggle was with food. We arrived on a Sunday, and there were no shops open. We cycled all day through small villages of 20 or so houses, many had no shops anyway. We got a little tired of road side apples, so resorted to corn from the fields. I think it may have been a bio-fuel crop, as it didn’t taste very good.

Champagne grapesEventually we arrived in the Marne Valley, and rode through the heart of their Champagne growing region. From there we entered Ile de France.

Our final full day to Clay Souilly was 110km, including some very steep hill climbing, in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid passing through Meux. From Meux we had a brief stretch on a nasty highway, before heading cross country, and riding into Clay Souilly along a nice pathway beside Le Canal d’Orcq.

We had planned to stay in a hotel that night, which was lucky. Just as we arrived the weather changed and the rain came pouring down. What extraordinary luck we had for the last ten days of the trip!

Day 123: La Fin  (10 October 2007)

47km Total 12594 (plus another six to Xia-Ing’s apartment)

My Euro-style NZ symbol.Slept in late in our hotel room in Clay Suouilly and stuffed about preparing bikes, cutting out NZ and TW stickers from fluorescent yellow insignia cloth. Weather was grey and grizzly and we didn’t need to reach Paris until 1pm.

Prend le velo a cote de la canal d’orcqAte a leisurely breakfast, then felt terribly sick. For about 20 minutes I sat on the toilet wanting to vomit, sweat pouring off me like rain. Then suddenly it passed and I felt fine. No idea what happened.

End of Canal d’orcq with familyFinally at 11:40pm (our latest start ever) we set off down Le Canal d’Orcq. Stopped for a pain-au-chocolat, then continued to our arranged rendezvous with Ting’s brother, Xia Ing and our friends.

Beautiful riding along the canal for a while, then into a graffiti-scrawled industrial area, where we bumped into Aaron. Sur le trocaderoMuch flag waving and hand shaking. Aaron was sporting a head wound from his accident and four hour surgical operation in Russia, but was otherwise in good condition.

Soon we were re-united with Xia Ing, Champaign avant le tour eiffeland more of Ting’s friends. Finally at the end of the canal there was my family, Rhonda, Mum and Aunt Margaret, along with some journalists.

Many more hugs and hand wiggling, pictures etc. Finally we all rode together into the centre of Paris. My three year project finally came to an end. I felt a weird mixture of relief, exhaustion, happiness and sadness that in a few days it would be all over.

End of le canal d’orcq

Update  (16 October 2017)

Well I’m about to turn 40, and have since had many fine new adventures. The Taiwanese crew wrote a book about this event, with loads of great photos, well done to them. Unfortunately it was only published in Chinese. I never published the book I wrote. I finished the manuscript but got distracted by other things. I might have another crack at it some day.  Similarly the 15 hours of film footage I took was too low quality to be very useful, so I’ll just have to chalk that one up to experience.

If you’ve made it to the end of my little story, I hope you enjoyed it.





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