By Zac Clayton, 04-May-2012 15:55:00
Wow. What an incredible 3 days. Incredibly tough. Incredibly eye-opening. Incredibly affirming. Incredibly incredible!
I’ve covered around 430km, cycling from Calais to Luxembourg, where I’m currently enjoying a rest day (one of the 3 I’ve scheduled in Europe). Over the course of the world cycle I want to average around 120km a day, and over the last 3 days I did 140km, 120km and 170km - so not exactly easing myself into it! They have been a blur of emotional highs and lows as I struggled to make the transition into the world cycle. While of course I’ve been dreaming of this moment for years, when it finally came and I cycled off the ferry into France a good half of me wanted to head right back around and head home!
My last night was spent in Dover with some family members, going out for a meal and saying some final goodbyes. I was pretty composed - more concerned really with those around me! I didn’t sleep at all during the night - not scared, just running through various scenarios in my head - so I was pretty tired when my alarm went off at 5am and I got up to catch the ferry. The final hour was a blur of hugs all round, no time for fear, and then that was suddenly it. I had cycled through customs, alone, and was tying my bike up at the back of the ferry when it finally hit me.
SHIT. I’m cycling around the world. On my own. What the bloody hell am I doing?!
The following 90 minutes on the ferry wasn’t exactly fun! I couldn’t eat my breakfast, my stomach too full of nerves. I wandered around, ignoring the inquiring glances being cast my way (one of the disadvantages/advantages of a full lycra get-up, depending on what mood you’re in!), and bought some water and half a kilo of M&Ms with the last of my British money. It was just as well I did, as it turned out all of France was on some sort of holiday and all the shops were shut! I had to survive the day on the M&Ms, a bag of peanuts and 2 shrivelled McDonalds hamburgers...which undoubtedly didn’t help my mood! Once I got off the ferry I felt a little better. The sun was sort of out (it had been raining in Dover) which lifted me a little and I found my route and set off along it. Within an hour or two though the blues were back, and I was feeling lower than I had felt in years. I missed my family, home, friends - everything. I wanted nothing more than to give up and go back home!
Of course, I didn’t! I knew that this was a moment of temporary weakness, that the lack of sleep wasn’t helping, and that I was just going to take a little time to adjust. Eventually, after I had crossed the border into Belgium, I began to feel a bit better. The terrain was thankfully very easy, very flat and with good cycle paths everywhere. At around 5pm I reached where I expected to find my campsite - only to discover that it didn’t exist! This actually didn’t worry me particularly, as I had been toying with the idea of wild camping anyway. So, I cycled further out of the city and found a secluded little park. After waiting for the playing children to disperse I scrambled down a bank and put up my tent next to a stagnant stream - managing to slip and dunk my shoes in it in the process! I promptly completely messed up cooking some pasta, which was inedible, so satisfied myself with the last handful of peanuts and went to bed at around 9pm.
I actually had a brilliant night’s sleep, and woke with my alarm at 6am, much refreshed and very hungry, and was on the road by 7am. I was already feeling much better - I hadn’t started cycling the day before until 10am, and I much prefer to get the miles under my belt early on. I picked up a brace of warm pain au chocolat’s from a nearby boulangerie (thank God for the French!) and munched through them while cycling the misty morning country lanes. I was already much more in the zone. I picked up some more food around mid-morning and spent a while chatting to some locals, one of whom told me his lengthy story of having once cycled to Marseille - he seemed a bit put out when I told him what I was doing when he had finished! I covered the distance pretty quickly, finishing 90km by midday, as the terrain changed from the ironing-board-flat of Northern France to the somewhat more hilly but still beautiful land of Belgium. I got onto the road I wanted to follow practically all the way to Luxembourg, the N40 - which was a big mental boost - and stopped for lunch.
It started to rain in the afternoon (which bizarrely actually cheered my up), and after an hour I was singing along loudly to my iPod, incredibly happy, as I headed towards the campsite I had picked out while at home. This one, thankfully, did exist, even if it did turn out to be a bit grotty. The showers were good though, which was the only thing I was worried about! After successfully cooking up some pasta I investigated my route for the next day and worked out that I was still 170km away from Luxembourg. I had expected quite a bit less, and even wondered if I had stopped at the right site! I decided to go for it even though I had wanted to take it easy for the first few days, as I knew I had a rest day planned in Luxembourg when I got there.
I got up at 5am the next morning and was on the road by 10 past 6, ready to cover some serious distance. The N40, the road I had chosen to take me most of the distance, turned out to be a bit of a bastard (sorry Mum), as rather than going around obstacles it simply went straight up and over them! I think I must have only turned a corner once an hour. This prevented me from getting any real rhythm going, as I spent most of the day climbing up (admittedly not too steep) hills. One 5km climb through the Belgian forests sticks in the mind, as I saw my first ever wild boar about halfway up! It was enormous, but scarpered before I could get a snap of it. After 100km by 12.30 (which meant I was making reasonable time, even if it didn’t feel like it) I was suffering a bit in the cold rain (I thought I was meant to get better weather on the continent?!) so I stopped by a bench for 30 minutes and munched down some lunch and a Red Bull (not something I want to overly rely on but its a good backup!). The next 55km or so to Luxembourg (the country, not the city!) was more of the same - short but slow climbs and even shorter quick descents - which I covered without too many problems. Once I got into Luxembourg I picked up traffic into the city itself, which was a welcome change from the lonely country roads of the past couple of days, and I enjoyed dodging through it to the campsite a few km south of the city. I arrived there at 5pm, 11 hours after I started, and in great spirits.
I spent the evening chatting to lots of people on the campsite from all over the world, all with their own interesting stories to tell (the lovely lady from behind the bar even made me some free dinner while I talked!), and picked up e-mails from home. I was blown away by all the amazing messages and donations to WaterAid I’ve received, and they will absolutely be fuel for the days and weeks to come. All in all, by the end of day 3 I was feeling back to myself again! Leaving was a big shock to my system (which had clearly been in some form of denial without telling me!), but I am definitely now feeling that this is the right thing for me to be doing. Bring on the world!
The next 8 days will be even tougher, no doubt, as I plough across Germany and down the Danube to Vienna, where I will have my next rest day. Don’t forget, you can follow my live progress on the tracker on my homepage!
1. 04-May-2012 16:09:00 by Richard S - The Godfather
Wow Zac - what a tale! And only 3 days in at that!! It's so great to read about what you've done, how you've felt.... next up, conquer Germany! We're all thinking of you.
2. 04-May-2012 16:13:00 by Auntie Phiona
Hi darling - loved listening to your blog (Uncle R read it out to me). Sounds like you're really getting into the groove. Just stay safe and as always, thinking of you.
3. 04-May-2012 16:49:00 by Mike Kearns Snr
Keep the blogs coming Zac. We are following your progress with great interest. Fantastic.
4. 04-May-2012 20:53:00 by Maria & Brez
keep a map of home
close to ur heart
keep ur eyes open
for all things wonderful
along the way
You are an inspiration! Praying that your journey is safe and special!
5. 05-May-2012 16:39:00 by samm Mullan-Johnston
Hey Zac never got to say Good luck before you went of on your travels. I hope you enjoy the ride and have some life time of memories, your mum is so proud of you i can imagine. take care pal and good luck again
You are viewing the text version of this site.
Need help? check the requirements page.